Passengers on a ship that has been stuck in Antarctic ice are being evacuated, as Chinese helicopters have begun transferring them to an Australian rescue ship. The ship has been immobile for over a week, with attempts by icebreakers to budge the MV Akademik Shokalskiy research vessel failing.
Fifty tourists and researchers on the ship are being removed by the helicopter, which can transport four or five people at a time. Chinese officials said that the rescue could take several hours. The passengers are being taken to an Australian icebreaker, the the Aurora Australis, which is located in more “temperate” waters two and a half miles away. From there they will be taken to Australia, from where they will be sent home. That voyage is likely to take another two weeks.
The MV Akademik Shokalskiy launched from New Zealand on December 8 for a month-long voyage, which was to duplicate a famous voyage by Australian geologist Douglas Mawson over 100 years ago. The ship had been stuck in the ice since December 24.
Officials did not say what would happen to the ship itself, which may have to remain in place until temperatures warm up a bit.