The group of 74 scientists, tourists and crew aboard a Russian ship stuck in ice off Antarctica is still stranded, although blizzard conditions that hit the ship earlier this week now appear to have eased. A Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon attempted to reach the ship on Saturday (December 28, 2013), and came within six-and-a-half nautical miles of the stranded vessel, but then encountered ice so heavy it could not break through.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating the rescue of the Russian passenger ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy. AMSA spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher told AFP:
The Chinese vessel unfortunately encountered some heavy ice that it’s not capable of breaking through. The rescue… unfortunately has stalled.
The Russian ship has been icebound about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d’Urville since Tuesday, December 24.
Three vessels with icebreaking capability had been attempting to reach the stranded Russian ship. The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon had been expected to get there first, late Friday, but it had to turn back. The French icebreaker, L’Astrolabe, is now said to have been released by rescue authorities from having to continue with the mission around midday on Saturday.
Now only the Australian Antarctic Division’s Aurora Australis continues to head toward the trapped Russian ship. It’s not expected to reach the area until Sunday evening.
Those aboard the trapped ship are said to have plenty of supplies and remain comfortable at this time.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.