A New Zealand scientist stranded aboard a ship in the
Antarctic has reassured family back home that all is well -
despite the stricken vessel being barraged by blizzards and
stuck in thick pack ice.
Ornithologist Kerry-Jayne Wilson is one of six New Zealanders
stuck on MV Akademik Shokalskiy as part of a expedition led
by scientists from the University of New South Wales.
The ship - which left Bluff on December 8 - sent a distress
signal to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on
Christmas morning after becoming stuck in pack ice about
3000km southwest of Bluff.
Dr Wilson, from Charleston on the West Coast, said via
satellite phone that the crew had managed to have a ''jolly
Christmas'' aboard the Russian-flagged ship.
''I just want to reassure them [family] that everyone is
happy,'' Dr Wilson said.
''Everyone is well and the ship is safe and we're in
absolutely no danger at all.''
Omakau-raised Nicole Kerr is a chef on the ship.
Her father Pete told the Otago Daily Times on
Christmas Day that she had been in touch and told her parents
all was well.
He said he had not heard further from her, when contacted by
the ODT yesterday.
There are 48 passengers and 20 crew members aboard the ship,
which was chartered by a group of scientists to follow in the
footsteps of Australian Antarctic explorer and scientist Sir
Dr Wilson - chairwoman of the Blue Penguin Trust - said the
unexpected stoppage might be a blessing in disguise.
''Frankly, I was a bit pleased to have a day off. If we had
been moving yesterday [Christmas day], I would be up and down
the bridge every hour [conducting bird observations],'' Dr
''Instead, I could relax and enjoy Christmas with the rest of
The ship was due to return to Bluff early in the new year,
but those plans were ''up in the air'', she said.
The other New Zealanders on board the ship are University of
Auckland doctoral student Colin Tan, historians John and
Barbara Tucker, Ms Kerr and her partner, who is also a chef.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously said four New
Zealanders were on the ship, but Dr Wilson said Mr and Mrs
Tucker may not have been counted because they live in
Dr Chris Fogwill, co-leader of the expedition, said being
stuck in the ice was ''deeply frustrating''.
''We've had two big low pressure systems come which have
pushed ice up against the coast and caught us north about two
miles [3.2km] from the edge of the ice. So we're very close,
in fact you can almost see the ice edge from here.''
The Chinese registered ice-breaker Snow Dragon is on its way
to help and should reach the trapped ship by tomorrow morning
at the latest.
''There's no immediate worry but we're keen to get out of
here as soon as we can,'' Dr Wilson said.