Antarctic Travelers Who Got Stuck In Ice Finally Get Home

January 22, 2014

The 52 scientists and paying passengers who spent more than a week aboard a ship that was trapped in ice off the coast of Antarctica over the holidays are now safely back home in Australia.

From Sydney, correspondent Stuart Cohen tells our Newscast Desk that
“three weeks after being rescued from their stranded research vessel,” the members of the exhibition are in the city of Hobart.

Now there’s the question of who will pay the $2 million (U.S.) or so that it cost to get the group off the stranded MV Akademik Shokalskiy. According to Stuart, Australian authorities say they’re negotiating with insurers of the Russian ship and the University of New South Wales, which chartered the vessel, about covering the costs.

If you’re not up to speed on what happened, here’s a recap from one of our earlier posts:

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck on Christmas Eve when rough weather caused a shift in the ice. Aboard the ship: 52 scientists and adventure tourists, mostly from Australia, who were on an expedition to retrace the steps of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. He led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14.

Two icebreakers, the Xue Long and the Australian-flagged Aurora Australis, tried and failed to reach the Russian-flagged Akademik Shokalskiy. A helicopter from the Xue Long was, however, able to ferry the 52 passengers to the Aurora Australis on Jan. 2. The Russian ship’s crew stayed behind. So did the Chinese vessel after it, too, got trapped in the ice.

It was hoped that the weather would change and allow both the Akademic Shokalskiy and the Xue Long to break free on their own. But just in case, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Polar Star was sent Sunday from Sydney to see if it could assist.

Then the hoped-for change in conditions happened. On Jan. 7, the Russian and Chinese ships were able to break free on their own.

Related: “Ice-bound ship ‘inherent risk’ says expedition’s leader.” (Australian Broadcasting)

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