Stuck ship sights rescue icebreaker

Akademik Shokalskiy. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Akademik Shokalskiy. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Excitement was yesterday building among scientists and crew aboard MV Akademik Shokalskiy as the first of three icebreakers was expected to arrive overnight to help free it from Antarctic pack ice.

Expedition leader Chris Turney, a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales, tweeted from the ship yesterday afternoon: ''Good news. Sounds like the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon is just 25 miles away. Hope to see it in a couple of hours!''

He later tweeted: ''Great news. Icebreaker Snow Dragon on horizon with penguins! Everyone very happy!''

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search and rescue operation, at 8.30pm said the first of three vessels sent to help was about 15 nautical miles from the stuck ship and was progressing at slow speed.

The second vessel was about 20 nautical miles away, the AMSA said.

It was unclear how long it would take the icebreakers to punch through the thick ice in the area and reach Akademik Shokalskiy.

Prof Turney noted the ship had been stationary for so long that Adelie penguins were coming up to it on the ice to check out what was going on.

While some people on board expressed deep frustration at being trapped in the pack ice, it was business as usual for Omakau-raised chef Nicole Kerr.

Her father Pete told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she had sent an email to let family know she was in good health and was lucky to have a job on board the vessel which kept boredom at bay.

''She's keeping herself occupied by cooking to keep the staff happy while they wait for the rescuers.

''She's probably the busiest person on the boat,'' he said.

Miss Kerr is one of six New Zealanders and about 70 scientists and crew on MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has spent the past three days trapped in thick ice about 100 nautical miles east of the French station Dumont DUrville, about 3000km southwest of Bluff.

The 30-year-old, 71m-long, vessel left Bluff on December 8 on an Australasian Antarctic Expedition to reach Mawson's Hut in Cape Denison in the Antarctic, to mark the 100-year anniversary of a similar trip by Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

It was scheduled to return early in the New Year, but a distress signal was sent on Christmas Day after it became stuck.

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