Passengers trapped in Antarctica to be rescued by helicopter

FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, file photo, provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia. Passengers on board the 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, Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock, File)

Andrew Peacock/AP

The ice-trapped Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, seen last Friday, is currently carrying 74 scientists, tourists and crew.

CANBERRA, Australia — Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter on Thursday after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre, which is handling the operation, said early Thursday that weather conditions had improved in the area since Wednesday and rescue flights were likely to commence shortly.

Passengers are seen linking arms and stamping out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the MV Akademik Shokalskiy as the ship waits for a possible helicopter rescue.

ANDREW PEACOCK/AFP/Getty Images

Passengers are seen linking arms and stamping out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the MV Akademik Shokalskiy as the ship waits for a possible helicopter rescue.

RELATED: ANTARCTIC’S ICY GRIP TRAPPING SHIP SHOWS CRACKS OF ‘HOPE’

“Wind in the area is now down to 10 knots (19 kmh) and visibility has improved. Weather conditions are expected to remain favorable over the next 36 hours,” the center said in a statement.

In good spirits: Some passengers sheltering in a tent lashed to the ships top deck sing a song they wrote streaming live on the Internet to mark in the new year.

ANDREW PEACOCK/AFP/Getty Images

In good spirits: Some passengers sheltering in a tent lashed to the ships top deck sing a song they wrote streaming live on the Internet to mark in the new year.

The 74 scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, had been hoping the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis would be able to crack through the thick ice and allow them to continue on their way. The Aurora came within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.

RELATED: RESCUE OF RUSSIAN SHIP STUCK IN ICE OFF ANTARCTICA SUFFERS SETBACK

Passengers trapped 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, are seen walking around the ice.

Andrew Peacock/AP

Passengers trapped 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, are seen walking around the ice.

The helicopter on board the Chinese-flagged vessel Snow Dragon will be used to rescue 52 scientists and tourists, a dozen at a time, over five hours. All 22 crew members are expected to stay with their icebound vessel, which is not in danger.

The center said the passengers will be flown 11 kilometers (7 miles) to the Chinese ship, from where they will be transported 4 kilometers (2 miles) by barge to the Australian icebreaker.

Of the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board the ship, 22 are expected to stay behind with the ship.

Andrew Peacock/AP

Of the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board the ship, 22 are expected to stay behind with the ship.

RELATED: ANTARCTICA RESEARCHERS STUCK AFTER WIND BLOWS ICE INTO SHIP’S PATH

The Snow Dragon, which is waiting with the Aurora at the edge of the ice pack, was also unable to crack through the ice, as was France’s L’Astrolabe.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28, got stuck Christmas Eve after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) south of Hobart, Tasmania. The ship isn’t in danger of sinking and has weeks’ worth of supplies on board, but it cannot move.

The scientific team on board had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica. Expedition leader Chris Turney had hoped to continue the trip if an icebreaker managed to free the ship.

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Nation / World – NY Daily News

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