Update: January 2, 2014: (Corrected) Well covered in the world’s media, all 52 passengers have now been airlifted from the pack ice adjacent to the trapped AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, by the helicopter from the Chinese XUE LONG (SNOW DRAGON), landing on an ice flow the passengers were transferred by boat to the Australian icebreaker AURORA AUSTRALIS. The icebreaker will reach Tasmania in Mid-January. The Russian crew will remain on board the trapped ship which, it is hoped, will be released from the drifting pack ice by changes in weather patterns.
Update: January 1, 2014: A Russian press reported that the powerful American icebreaker POLAR STAR could be called in to rescue the AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, but it would take as long as 10 days reach the ice bound ship. Meanwhile, the weather has prevented airlifting the passengers from the ship.
Update: Dec 30, 2013: A decision has been made to airlift 52 passengers and along with four of the crew from the ice trapped AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, as soon as the weather conditions permit the rescue.
Update: Dec 29, 2013: It seems the passengers, scientists and crew of AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY will likely being spending New Year’s eve trapped the ice that has surrounded their ship since it became stuck on Christmas Day. The icebreaker AURORA AUSTRALIS arrived on scene, but after slowly cutting through the ice for 2 miles was forced to retreat lest it become trapped itself. Low fog is also hampering the rescue.
Update: Dec 27, 2013 – 2 : The icebreaking supply ship XUE LONG, was unable to get closer than about six nautical miles from the stranded AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, Captain Wang Jiangzhong reported. With current bad weather and thickening ice conditions it may take another two days to get to the trapped ship freed. The icebreaker AURORA AUSTRALIS, an Australian icebreaker, launched in 1989, (owned by P&O Maritime Services, but is regularly chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) for research cruises in Antarctic waters and to support Australian bases in Antarctica), is expected to arrive on Sunday, Dec 29. It is hoped that the two ships in tandem will be able to open a path by working in concert and reach the trapped Russian ship. The smaller MV ASTROLABE may work keep the sea lane open.
Update: Dec 27, 2013: Video from of the crew and scientists witnessing the arrival of the XUE LONG.
Updated: December 26, 2013. The Chinese icebreaking research ship XUE LONG (Snow Dragon) is expected to reach the trapped vessel on December 27 and will clear a path for the Russian vessel to reach open water.
Details: XUE LONG, built 1993, 14,997 GT, length 167 m (548 ft), Beam 22.6 m (74 ft), Draft 9 m (30 ft).
Arriving shortly after the XUE LONG, the 1986-built French vessel MV L’ASTROLABEa main resupply vessel used by l’Institute Polaire for the resupply of the French base, Dumont D’Urville, in Adelie Land, will offer support.
In addition to the Russian crew of 22 on board AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, the expedition team consists of 18 professional scientists from Australia and New Zealand, and 22 volunteer science assistants. They are members of the public, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s who paid to join the scientific adventure.
The Russian ship MV AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY has become trapped in ice in the remote Antarctic more than two days’ sailing from the nearest rescue vessel, officials said Wednesday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating a search and rescue for the ship which is approximately 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.
A statement was released by the Australian Government: “AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia) was contacted by the Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in the United Kingdom on Christmas morning. The Falmouth MRCC received a distress message via satellite from a Russian flagged vessel, MV AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY, with 74 people about 7.20am (AEDT).
The ship is in the Australian Search and Rescue region, 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D’Urville. RCC Australia assumed coordination of the incident and issued a broadcast to icebreaking vessels in the area.
Three ships with icebreaking capability have responded, including the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) vessel AURORA AUSTRALIS, and are now en route to the area.
The closest vessels are at least two days sailing time away. Further updates will be provided when more information is available.”
Onboard the MV AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY are 74 people aboard including 52 explorers and tourists.
MV AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY is an Akademik Shuleykin-class ice-strengthened ship, built in Finland in 1982 for oceanographic research (named after the Russian oceanographer Yuly Shokalsky). In 1998 it was converted for use as a research ship for Arctic and Antarctic voyages. The vessel has two passenger decks, with dining rooms, a bar, a library, and a sauna, and can accommodate 54 passengers. It is currently operated by Aurora Expeditions, an Australian expedition cruise line.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.