Antarctic researchers rescued from their icebound ship that has kept them in captivity since Dec. 24, 2013 have reason to celebrate today. All 52 passengers stranded aboard the ice-bound research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy have been safely stransferred.
The Australian rescue operators said the tourists and scientist that made up the ship are now all aboard the ship Aurora Australis.
They were transported there in groups by a helicopter from the Chinese ice-breaker, Xue Long. Each trip took approximately 45 minutes, round trip.
“We’ve made it to the Aurora australis safe & sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese & @AusAntarctic for all their hard work!” expedition leader Chris Turney tweeted.
The Shokalskiy was trapped by thick sheets of ice driven by strong winds, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart – the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania per BBC News.
The passengers were then taken to an ice floe next to the Aurora Australis where they were then ferried on to the ice-breaker by a small boat.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (Amsa) Rescue Co-ordination Center oversaw the entire operation. They had said earlier that it was unlikely the rescue would go ahead on Thursday as hoped because of the sea-ice conditions.
It later reported: “Aurora Australis has advised that the 52 passengers from Akademik Shokalskiy are now on borad.”
The passengers are not expected to arrive back in Tasmania until mid-January.
The thickness of the ice first stopped several attempts to break through the ship by sea – by both the Xue Long, Aurora Australis and French-flagged L’Astrolabe.
Andrew Luck-Baker says the Aurora Australis, although big, was simply not up to the task and there is speculation that two larger vessels that are better suited for the job may be coming to the area in the next few weeks to come.
The 22 crew are expected to remain on board to wait until the vessel becomes free.
Antarctic researchers rescued from the ship will look forward to a safe arrival home in the meantime.