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Passengers rescued off ship stuck in Antarctic ice

  • The first group of passengers of the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. AP Photo

    The first group of passengers of the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. AP Photo

  • Passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy trapped in the ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, walk around the ice.AP Photo

    Passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy trapped in the ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, walk around the ice.AP Photo

  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

    In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

    In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

    In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, passengers from the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalski, seen at right, prepare to board the Chinese helicopter Xueying 12 in the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

    In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, passengers from the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalski, seen at right, prepare to board the Chinese helicopter Xueying 12 in the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Ben Maddison and Ben Fisk from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy work to place a wind indicator atop an ice feature near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

    In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Ben Maddison and Ben Fisk from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy work to place a wind indicator atop an ice feature near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

  • CORRECTS SPELLING OF THE SHIP - In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, the first group of passengers who were aboard the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.  The helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

    CORRECTS SPELLING OF THE SHIP - In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, the first group of passengers who were aboard the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. The helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

  • The first group of passengers of the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. AP Photo
  • Passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy trapped in the ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, walk around the ice.AP Photo
  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES
  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, the first group of passengers aboard the trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES
  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
  • In this photo provided China's official Xinhnua News Agency, passengers from the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalski, seen at right, prepare to board the Chinese helicopter Xueying 12 in the Antarctic Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES
  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Ben Maddison and Ben Fisk from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy work to place a wind indicator atop an ice feature near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
  • CORRECTS SPELLING OF THE SHIP - In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, the first group of passengers who were aboard the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy arrive at a safe surface off the Antarctic, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.  The helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Jiansong) NO SALES

All 52 passengers trapped for more than a week on an icebound Russian research ship in the Antarctic were rescued yesterday when a Chinese helicopter swooped in and plucked them from the ice a dozen at a time.

The dramatic international rescue operation became possible once the weather finally cleared. Blinding snow, strong winds, fog and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time and again.

The twin-rotor helicopter – its red and yellow colors contrasting starkly against the ice and snow – carried the scientists and tourists from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy to an Australian icebreaker, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue.

At one point, the passengers linked arms and stomped out a landing site in the snow next to the Russian ship for the helicopter, which is based on a Chinese icebreaker.

The eagerly anticipated rescue came after days of failed attempts to reach the vessel, which was trapped since Christmas Eve.

The icebreaker Aurora Australis will take the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania, a journey expected to last two weeks.

“I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home,” expedition leader Chris Turney told the Associated Press by satellite phone from the Antarctic.

Sydney resident Joanne Sim, a paying passenger, wept as she boarded the Australian icebreakers. She said the passengers had spent their time watching movies and playing games.

“It really has been an emotional rollercoaster,” she told a Sydney Morning Herald reporter aboard the ship.

ASMA said the Aurora was cracking through heavy ice at 1,500 feet an hour and was expected to reach open sea by today.

The 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy stayed with the icebound vessel, which is not in danger of sinking and has enough supplies on board to last for weeks. They will wait until the ice that surrounds the ship breaks up.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28, got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 1,700 miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.

Three icebreakers were dispatched to try to crack their way through the ice surrounding the Russian ship, but all failed. The Aurora came within 12 miles of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.

Yesterday, it initially appeared the weather had thwarted yet another rescue attempt. The helicopter was originally going to carry the passengers back to the Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, with a barge then ferrying them to the Aurora. But sea ice prevented the barge from reaching the Chinese vessel, and the maritime authority said the operation would have to be delayed.

A last-minute change in plans allowed the rescue to go ahead. The passengers were instead flown to an ice floe next to the Aurora and then taken by a small boat to the Australian ship, Turney said.

The Aurora’s owner, P&O Maritime, said the 308-foot ship was capable of holding 116 passengers in addition to its crew of 24 and has space for two helicopters.

Legacy Comments1

Interesting story....no mention of why the ship was there in the first place.. to study disappearing ice. Now its 3 icebreakers and a helicopter... I hope they bought lots of carbon credits

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