Trapped Chinese icebreaker safe, tries to get out of trouble after Antarctic rescue
                 English.news.cn | 2014-01-04 19:58:33 | Editor: Mengjie

ABOARD XUELONG, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- All crew and passengers aboard China's research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong, which has been trapped by heavy floes in Antarctica, are safe and making efforts to get out of trouble.

The team aboard Xuelong on China's 30th scientific expedition mission to Antarctica convened a meeting Saturday, believing they are able to break the siege of floes after they airlifted passengers from another trapped Russian ship Thursday.

All 101 people aboard Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, including crew members, scientists and journalists, are taking various measures to handle the situation.

On Saturday, Xuelong is locked in a heavy floe area, some 21 km away from the nearest ice-free waters, and it carries sufficient supplies, according to Xinhua reporters aboard the vessel.

In order to ensure the vessel's safety, Xuelong has created a one-km-long "ice-breaking runaway," waiting for favorable weather conditions to break the siege.

Wang Jianzhong, captain of Xuelong, said that Xuelong has been surrounded by swiftly-amassed floes due to lasting strong winds in the past days, with the thickest ice layer reaching 3 meters to 4 meters.

It is difficult for Xuelong to break the ice in such an area with one iceberg ahead and another moving closer slowly from behind, Wang said. To ensure safety, the vessel temporarily stays in the area and waits for opportunities.

Xuelong could get out of trouble as long as it could break through the thickest floe zone some 2 nautical miles (about 3.7 km) long, Wang said, but it is important for Xuelong to find an opportunity to sail through the area with rapidly drifting icebergs and floes.

Xuelong used an onboard helicopter Thursday to evacuate all the 52 passengers on the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stranded since Christmas Eve, to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

However, after the rescue, Xuelong's own movement was blocked by a one-km-long iceberg which is drifting northwest, according to Xinhua reporters aboard the icebreaker.

The massive flat-top iceberg drifting ahead is sometimes as close as 1.2 nautical miles (about 2.22 km) to Xuelong.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the Chinese icebreaker's attempt to manoeuvre through the ice early Saturday was unsuccessful.

But Xuelong has told AMSA that it is safe, is not in distress and does not require assistance at the time, according to the latest statement from AMSA.

AMSA has confirmed that there is no immediate danger to personnel aboard Xuelong which has food supplies for several weeks.

The statement also said the masters of both Akademik Shokalskiy and Xuelong agreed Saturday morning that further assistance from Aurora Australis is no longer required and that they will be able to provide mutual support to each other.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged an all-out effort to ensure the safety of the Xuelong staff.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has also instructed the Xuelong team to stay calm and wait for the opportunity to get out of trouble.

Aurora Australis carrying all the rescued passengers has now continued to make its passage to the Casey base to complete a resupply before heading to Australia, AMSA said.

Liu Shunlin, head of the Chinese mission, said that a wind from the west could be expected on Monday and Tuesday, which could loosen the floes around Xuelong and open a window for Xuelong to break through.

Scientists aboard Xuelong are also gathering meteorological information and ocean current data, among others, to help analyze the situation and work on measures to cope with the situation.

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