The Chinese ice-breaker that helped rescue passengers stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy vessel in Antarctica is now stuck itself. An Australian ice-breaker carrying the rescued passengers is no longer on standby and is returning to shore.
On Thursday, a helicopter from the Chinese ship, Xue Long, transferred 52 passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis. The Russian boat has been trapped by thick floes of ice since 24 December.
Xue Long’s attempt to manoeuvre through the ice… was unsuccessful. Xue Long has confirmed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that it is beset by ice. It is the latest twist in what has become a complicated rescue operation in the Antarctic.
The Australian Aurora Australis had been asked to remain in open water nearby in case the Xue Long needed help – but AMSA said this was no longer needed and it had been released from its search and rescue mission.
The authority added that the Australian vessel was travelling to the Casey research base on the Windmill Islands, just outside the Antarctic Circle, to complete a re-supply task before continuing to Hobart – the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania.