Two ships that had been stuck in Antarctica have finally broken free of surrounding ice due to favourable change in wind conditions, according to a release from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard, which had dispatched its Polar Star icebreaker to rescue the two ships — Russian-flagged Akademik Shokalskiy, trapped since Christmas Eve, and Chinese-flagged Xue Long, an icebreaker attempting rescue — said in a statement it had received confirmation they were free from Australian Maritime Safety Authority at 2 p.m. Pacific time.
“I am exceptionally proud of my crew in their ability to respond to this mission,” said Capt. George Pellissier, commanding officer of the Polar Star, in the statement. “I, too, am extremely pleased that both the Akademik Shokalskiy and the Xue Long have been able to work their way free of the ice. We’re now looking forward to continuing on our primary mission of resupplying McMurdo Station.”
The Akademik Shokalskiy had been trapped in unusually deep ice since Christmas Eve with scientists, journalists, tourists and crew members on board. A helicopter ferried the ship’s 52 passengers to an Australian icebreaker last week.
“We continue to sail northward, changing courses and speed. The speed is 7 knots,” the Russian ship’s captain, Igor Kiselev, told the ITAR-TASS official news agency Tuesday.
The Coast Guard had responded to the request for its only active icebreaker on Jan. 4, and wasn’t expected to arrive until the 12th.
While stuck, passengers on the Russian research ship tried to keep busy with movies, photography, and dinner and drinks on New Year’s, according to Reuters. Two journalists shared much of what it was like over social media.
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