A Chinese helicopter has successfully rescued 52 scientists, tourists and journalists in groups of 12 from research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy lodged in deep ice 100 nautical miles east of Dumont d’Urville the French Antarctic base on Île des Pétrels.
The Russian research ship, which held scientists measuring the speed of the disappearance of the Antarctic sea ice, had left New Zealand on November 28th and become stuck in the ice December 24th in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica. Once stuck icebreakers from Australia, France and China made several rescue attempts but turned back due to impenetrable conditions. With ship rescues abandoned, rescuers turned their focus towards an airlift rescue effort. Conditions became flyable on late Thursday; two days after ship rescue efforts were abandoned.
To pass time during the rescue effort, scientists continued their research by measuring the temperature and salinity through the ice cracks. In addition the passengers disembarked the ship on New Years day to stomp out an impromptu helipad on the frozen Antarctic sea.
Rescue came from Chinese helicopter off of the Xue Long icebreaker and delivered passengers to a small transport boat, which transported passengers back onto supply ship and icebreaker, Aurora Australis.
Airlift began at 5 pm and by 10:16 pm; the Australian Safety Maritime Authority (ASMA) confirmed that all passengers were safely aboard the Aurora Australis. All experienced great relief at being rescued after the 10-day ordeal but none more so than expedition leader Chris Turney. "We've made it to the Aurora Australis safe and sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese and the (government's) Australian Antarctic Division for all their hard work," Turney tweeted. The Passengers will arrive back in Tasmania mid-January following a stop in Australia for refueling.
The research vessel's Russian crew will remain on board until the ice breaks. ASMA anticipates that this could be several weeks.
During the ordeal the ship was well stocked and neither the passengers or its crew were ever in any danger.
Read more at Discovery News.
Rescue image via BBC.