Ship Trapped In Ice Awaits Last-Ditch Rescue Effort

The Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped in ice near Antarctica for five days. Now an Australian icebreaker is the ship's best chance of breaking out.
Posted at 4:27 PM, Dec 29, 2013

It's been five days since a Russian ship first became stuck in ice off the coast of Antarctica, trapping all 74 people on board. Now a last-ditch rescue effort is underway to wrest the ship from its icy prison.

The Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on Nov. 24 carrying the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, a primarily Australian mission aiming to study the impact of climate change on the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions. (Via CNN)

The research team hoped to trace the route carved by Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, the leader of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition 100 years earlier. Despite suffering immense hardships and several deaths, Mawson's expedition provided a wealth of scientific information about the region. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Australian Antarctic Division, National Library of Australia, Wikimedia Commons / Frank Hurley)

Unfortunately, the modern expedition hasn't fared as well. Blizzard conditions set in around Christmas Eve, and the vessel became encased in a thick sheet of ice. (Via YouTube / Intrepid Science

A Chinese icebreaker ship attempted to rescue the trapped vessel, but failed to penetrate the ice and was forced to fall back. A French icebreaker was also unsuccessful. (Via NBC)

Now the Akademik Shokalskiy's best hope is the Aurora Australis, an Australian icebreaker with greater cutting power than the previous two ships. The Australius is currently en route to the frozen ship. (Via Sydney Morning Herald)

If the Australis can't make it through the ice, the ship's passengers will likely have to evacuate the vessel via a helicopter on board the Chinese icebreaker. (Via The Guardian)

In spite of their predicament, morale seems high aboard the trapped ship. A BBC reporter on the vessel notes most of the passengers have been enjoying the wintry weather.

"We've had igloo building, there's been dancing today, and there's been a wonderful lady from Hong Kong who's been doing all sorts of elaborate selfies."

And the recent appearance of cracks around the ice surrounding the Shokalskiy has expedition leader Chris Turney optimistic about a rescue. (Via Twitter /ProfChrisTurney)

Alok Jha: "That ice is definitely cracking out there. Is it enough to get us out?"

Chris Turney: "I hope so." (Via Vine / Chris Turney)

The expedition was scheduled to return to New Zealand on Jan. 4. Turney told reporters the ship should be able to make it back on schedule.