Passengers aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy are tonight being
evacuated from the research ship that has been stuck in
Antarctic sea ice for more than a week.
Expedition leader, Australian Professor Chris Turney, tweeted
shortly before 7pm: "The Chinese helicopter has arrived @ the
Shokalskiy. It's 100% we're off! A huge thanks to all."
He posted a video of the first chopper to reach the ship.
Earlier today the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
announced the evacuation was expected to be delayed, but now
a helicopter from Chinese ice breaker Xue Long has arrived to
begin moving the 52 stricken passengers, including six New
They would be taken back to the Chinese ship 11km away, also
known as the Snow Dragon, which had also become trapped in
AP reported that the evacuation was expected to take about
five hours, with a dozen people at a time choppered away from
the Akademik Shokalskiy. Its crew of 22 Russians were
expected to stay with the vessel, which was not in danger.
From the Xue Long, passengers would be transported a further
4km by barge to Australian icebreaker, Aurora Australis. They
were then expected to travel to Tasmania, Australia, arriving
Earlier today Prof Turney posted a video to his Twitter feed
showing him speaking to the camera in front of clear blue
sky. "A stunning day. Hopefully we'll hear about the
evacuation soon," he said.
This contrasted to Christmas Eve when, Prof Turney said the
ice remained thick around the ship.
The six New Zealanders on board include ornithologist
Kerry-Jayne Wilson, University of Auckland doctoral student
Colin Tan, historians John and Barbara Tucker, and two chefs.
Despite being stuck, scientists on board continued their
research, counting bird life in the area and drilling through
ice to photograph sea life.
They were also served a traditional Christmas feast and held
a secret Santa exchange of presents.
The Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian research vessel, left
Bluff in early December and got stuck on Christmas Day,
3000km southwest of Bluff.
The scientific team on board, led by scientists from the
University of New South Wales, had been recreating Australian
explorer Douglas Mawson's 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica.