Icy conditions mean it is now unlikely an international rescue will go ahead today for passengers of a ship stranded in sea ice in Antarctica.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says: “Sea ice conditions in the area are likely to delay today’s planned rescue of passengers from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.”
Australian Antarctic Expedition leader Chris Turney earlier said it was a stunning day. “Hopefully we’ll hear about the evacuation soon.”
However, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority later said the preferred option is to wait for conditions allowing the rescue to be completed in a single operation to reduce unnecessary risk.
The authority is now reassessing a complicated rescue plan which was to be carried out in stages. The preferred and safest option is to ultimately transfer the passengers onto Aurora Australis.
“This rescue is a complex operation involving a number of steps. Operations in Antarctica are all weather and ice dependent and conditions can change rapidly. The priority is to ensure the safety of all involved.”
The original plan was for a helicopter on board the Chinese flagged vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) be used to pick up the 52 passengers.
The 22 crew from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy would remain on board and take the ship out of the ice when conditions allowed.
The operation was expected to take five hours and seven flights, the first five flights for passengers and the last two for luggage and equipment.
The Aurora Australis would then use its barge to transfer all 52 passengers from the Chinese ship.
However, sea ice conditions today prevent the barge from reaching the Snow Dragon.
Expedition members composed and sang a New Year’s message about being stuck at the bottom of the world.
The key line is: “Bloody great shame we are still stuck here!”
See them sing it here:
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