SYDNEY – Bad weather on Monday forced back an Australian icebreaker struggling to reach a scientific expedition ship stranded off Antarctica, and snow and winds prevented a helicopter rescue, authorities said.
The Aurora Australis made it to within 18 km of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which is stuck in an ice field, before retreating.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said further rescue attempts could be made by the Australian vessel once the weather improves.
The stranded ship is carrying 74 people — including scientists, tourists and crew members — and has been stationary since Dec. 24.
Its passengers, who had been following in the Antarctic footsteps of Australian Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1911-1914 expedition, remain safe on their well-provisioned vessel.
Three icebreakers, including the Aurora Australis, were called to help free the Russian vessel, but a Chinese-flagged vessel was unable to break through the ice and had to retreat while the other vessel was released from the rescue.
Authorities had hoped that a helicopter on the Chinese vessel would be able to evacuate the passengers if the Aurora Australis was unsuccessful.
The team onboard has been carrying out the same scientific experiments Mawson’s group conducted during the 1911-1914 expedition in the hope they could help in climate change research.
Several members of the team have already battled sea ice to reach the historic Mawson’s Huts — built and occupied by the 1911-1914 expedition — which have been isolated for years by a giant iceberg.