The Chinese icebreaker that sent out a helicopter on Thursday to airlift dozens of passengers [researchers and environmentalists who were investigating the real effects of global warming] from a ship stuck in the Antarctic ice is now beset by ice and unable to move, according to Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA).
The captain of the Xue Long told AMSA that his ship is safe, has plenty of food and supplies and will not need assistance at this time.
The Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis, which is carrying the rescued passengers, was placed on standby in case the Xue Long needs help. But the captains of both the Xue Long and the Russian-flagged MV Akadmik Shokalskiy agreed they no longer need the Aurora Australis.
They said they will be able to provide mutual support to each other.
It was Australia, China and French that performed a three nation rescue using multiple ice breakers and helicopters. The Russian ship was the original charter.
AMSA released the Aurora Australis from search and rescue and the vessel now continues to make its passage with the freed passengers to the Casey base to complete a resupply.
The Chinese ship plans to try to get out of the thick ice early Saturday at a point when tidal conditions are most favorable, according to AMSA.
The Chinese vessel’s struggle comes the day after its helicopter ferried all 52 passengers from an ice-locked Akadmik Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis.
The bill to rescue dozens of tourists, scientists and journalists on the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica will reach $400,000, the Australian federal government says.
The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis suspended a critical resupply at Casey Station to rescue 52 passengers onboard the Russian ship after it became stuck in heavy pack ice on Christmas Day.
The first error expedition leaders made was under-estimating the prevailing sea ice conditions at Mawson Station, their destination. The scientists seemed to be convinced that Antarctica was a warmer place today than it had been 100 years earlier, and thus perhaps they could expect less sea ice there. This in turn would allow them to charter a lighter, cheaper vessel.
This seems to be the case judging by their choice of seafaring vessel. They chartered a Russian vessel MS Akademik Shokalskiy, an ice-strengthened ship built in Finland in 1982. According to Wikipedia the ship has two passenger decks, with dining rooms, a bar, a library, and a sauna, and accommodates 54 passengers and a crew of up to 30. Though it is ice-reinforced, it is not an ice-breaker. This is a rather surprising selection for an expedition to Antarctica, especially in view that the AAE website itself expected to travel through areas that even icebreakers at times are unable to penetrate, as we are now vividly witnessing. Perhaps the price for chartering the Russian vessel was too good to pass up.
The short- and long-term impacts on the Australian science program are pronounced [because of money and resources diverted to the rescue]. It is the same for both the Chinese and French programs since their icebreakers were diverted, too. I’ll be sitting down to New Year’s Eve dinner in a few minutes with a number of Australian researchers including the director of the Australian Antarctic Division Tony Fleming– many of these guys can’t complete the research they’ve been planning for years because some or all of their science gear still is on the Aurora.
What’s up with that criticizes the party atmosphere of the trip even after being trapped and triggering the multiple difficult rescues. They also point out several other sunken ships.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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