ABOARD XUELONG, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese icebreaker Xuelong has been prepared to rescue passengers and crew members aboard a Russian vessel stuck in sea ice off Antarctica.
Xuelong, which left Shanghai in early November on China's 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica, has established an emergency relief working group after the Russian ship's captain sent a formal request on Tuesday for chopper rescue.
The expedition says it will utilize the helicopter Xueying (Snow Eagle) on board to airlift trapped passengers to safety, if weather conditions permit.
Chief officer of MV Akademik Shokalskiy told Itar-Tass the passengers are expected to be rescued by helicopter in groups of 12 and will be initially transported to Xuelong. The powerful Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which is approaching slowly due to the poor weather, will then use its barge to take aboard all the 52 passengers.
"When to start the evacuation depends on weather conditions, but currently the rescue must be held off due to strong wind and poor visibility," he said.
The adverse weather will not improve until Wednesday afternoon. All 22 crew members are now ready to help evacuate passengers as an area about 40 meters away from the vessel has been cleared for helicopter landing, he added.
MV Akademik Shokalskiy, built in Finland in 1982, is carrying 22 crew members and 52 scientists and tourists. It is scheduled to return to New Zealand in January 2014. It sent a distress call on Christmas Day after being trapped in heavy sea ice in Antarctic sea.
Meanwhile, the Chinese ship has continued with some of its research assignments while actively making attempts to free the trapped Russian ship.
Jiao Yutian, team leader of China's 30th Antarctic scientific expedition, said it is Xuelong's maiden tour of the waters where the Russian vessel is trapped and there is a lack of scientific records regarding ocean physics, sea ice and meteorological environment of this sea area.
"It is the first time we have obtained scientific data of this sea area in Antarctica, and it holds great significance for our future research," Jiao said.
Chinese helicopter to rescue passengers from Russian vessel in Antarctica: AMSA
CANBERRA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The helicopter on board the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long will be used to rescue the passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia) confirmed Tuesday.
According to the AMSA, The Aurora Australis advised RCC Australia this morning it would be at risk of becoming beset by ice itself if it continued to make further rescue attempts. Full story