Scientists, tourists rescued from Antarctic ship begin long journey home

Thu Jan 2, 2014 6:56pm EST
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By Maggie Lu Yueyang

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian icebreaker with 52 passengers rescued from a Russian ship trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve began the long journey home on Friday.

"The passengers seem very glad to now be with us and they are settling in to their new accommodation," Jason Mundy, Australian Antarctic Division Acting Director who is on board the ice breaker Aurora Australis, said on Friday morning.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon ferried the 52 scientists and tourists in small groups from the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy and transferred them to the Antarctic supply ship Aurora Australis late on Thursday.

The Aurora Australis is now sailing towards open water and will then head towards an Antarctic base to complete a resupply before returning to Australia.

Passengers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders, will probably arrive in Australia's southern island state of Tasmania around mid-January. The Russian crew on the Akademik Shokalskiy will stay onboard until the ice breaks up and frees the ship.

The rescue, repeatedly delayed due to weather and ice conditions, kicked off late on Thursday afternoon and took around five hours to complete.

Chris Turney, who led the private expedition, documented the rescue mission from the stranded ship with regular posts depicting videos and photographs.

"The first of the helicopters to take us home! Thanks everyone!" Turney and another passenger said cheerfully in a short video clip when the helicopter arrived to take the first group of 12 people.   Continued...

A helicopter from the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker unloads rescued passengers from the ice-bound Russian ship, Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, some 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km) south of Hobart, Tasmania, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax's Australian Antarctic Division. REUTERS/Fairfax/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout via Reuters