Chinese 'Snow Dragon' icebreaker gets STUCK on its way to rescue ship of 70 tourists trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Day
- Team of researchers, tourists and a reporter stuck among thick ice sheet 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, the Tasmanian capital
- Called for help at 5am Christmas morning after becoming submerged in ice
- Scientists warn blizzards could delay rescue mission further
By Mia De Graaf
PUBLISHED: 05:55 EST, 27 December 2013 | UPDATED: 15:28 EST, 28 December 2013
The ice breaker sent out to rescue a tourist ship submerged in Antarctic ice since Christmas Day is stuck en-route to the vessel.
The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, is six nautical miles away from the stranded Russian ship and may take another two days to reach it, its captain has said.
Academic Shokalskiy, carrying 74 people, was recreating a 100-year-old Australasia expedition first sailed by Sir Douglas Mawson to see how the journey changes using new technology and equipment.
But on Wednesday morning, the boat hit a mass of thick ice sheets and today remains at a stand still.
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Trapped: 74 people, including scientists, tourists and a Guardian reporter, are stuck in thick ice sheets
Russia's Academic Shokalskiy is recreating Mawson's 100-year-old Australasia expedition using new tools
Just before 5am on Wednesday, Australia deployed a The Snow Dragon to free the group into open water, the BBC reported, but Capt. Wang Jiangzhong has now said it may need another two icebreakers to help it get to the stranded ship.
French vessel L'Astrolabe has also been sent out for back up, alongside Australia's Aurora Australis, which is carrying food and first aid professionals.
Finally, after two days being stranded, the passengers hope to be rescued today by the Snow Dragon.
However, the support teams have warned oncoming blizzards could delay their arrival even further.
Marooned 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart - the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania - the thick ice sheets built up during a bout of severe wind.
Conditions are set to worsen today.
The ice-strengthened ship, built in 1982, was originally used for oceanographic research before being refurbished to be used as a passenger vessel in the Arctic and Antarctica.
Blizzards could hamper the rescue mission, but the ship is well-stocked and the scientists are continuing their research on the snow around them
France's L'Astrobe and Australia's Aurora Australis have also been deployed to save the ship
Bleak: The ship has been stranded in the barren, frozen landscape since Christmas
On board are scientists from the University of New South Wales, a journalist from The Guardian and dozens of tourists who have paid to be part of the recreation of Mawson’s expedition.
The research team has made contact with local stations from the Commonwealth Bay to say they are well-stocked with food.
They are also continuing their research while stranded by testing the temperature of the surrounding ice sheets.
A spokesman for Australia's Maritime Safety Authority told Australia's Associated Press: 'It is quite a remote part of the world, but we have everyone safe. The vessel isn't in any immediate danger.'
The spokesman said the ship was visiting a number of sites along the edge of Antarctica.
The nationalities of the tourists have not been revealed, but they are known to include scientists and explorers.
One has managed to send a tweet.
Chris Turney, of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, wrote: 'Heavy ice. Beautiful; light wind. Only -1degC. All well. Merry Xmas everyone from AAE.'
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