The crew aboard a Russian ship that has been trapped in ice in the Antarctic will have to be evacuated via helicopter after two attempts to reach the crew by sea failed.
A helicopter on board a Chinese icebreaker will be used to rescue all passengers if weather conditions permit after an Antarctic blizzard halted an Australian icebreaker's attempt to reach the Russian ship, rescuers said on Monday.
"The weather condition is not safe for it to proceed, and it's gone back to open water," Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Lisa Martin said in a statement.
The MV Akademik Shokalskiy is currently housing 74 passengers and sent a distress signal after it became trapped in ice floes. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) coordinated the search and rescue for the ship, which is roughly 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.
The Chinese vessel, the Snow Dragon, is less than 10 miles from the Akademik Shokalskiy and once it arrives, it will use its helicopter to ferry the stranded passengers if weather conditions permit, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.
A British rescue coordination center received a satellite distress signal on Christmas morning from the Russian ship and contacted the Australian authority, which handles the Southern Ocean region where the vessel was stuck, the AMSA revealed in a statement.
The AMSA was also able to locate the trapped ship, which was revealed to be 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville. Unfortunately, that base does not have the equipment to deal with this type of situation, causing the delay in rescue.
Expeditions Online, a polar booking agent for the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said on its website that the ship got stuck "part way through her Australasian Antarctic Expedition towards Mawson's Hut at Cape Denison."
It described the ship as "a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel" for working in polar regions.
"This class of vessel is world-renowned for polar exploration, because of its strength, maneuverability and small passenger numbers," the company's website said.