Global warming researchers stuck in Antarctic ice likely to spend New Year on board as rescue helicopter stands by


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The Independent Online

Passengers on a climate change research ship stranded in Antarctica are likely to ring in the New Year on the ice-trapped vessel – as a rescue helicopter on a nearby Chinese ship waits for the weather to clear.

The helicopter on board the Snow Dragon will be used after the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis failed to reach the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said today.

But the rescue attempt is on hold due to ongoing blizzard conditions.

“Weather conditions are unlikely to start improving until tomorrow and decisions related to carrying out the rescue may be made at short notice,” AMSA said.

The team on board the ship set out from New Zealand on 28 November and had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's voyage to Antarctica 100 years ago.

They became trapped on Christmas Eve after a blizzard pushed thick sheets of ice around the ship, freezing it in place.

The 74 passengers on board include scientists and tourists and the 22-strong Russian crew.

Expedition leader Chris Turney said the last week had been “ sobering” but morale was good.

Rescuers plan to move all of the 52 passengers from the ship to the Snow Dragon, with most crew members expected to stay on the Russian ship, AMSA said.