Antarctic expedition ship stuck in ice

DECEMBER 26, 2013 — A former Soviet research ship today remained stuck in ice some 1,500 miles south of Hobart, Tasmania. The Russian-flag ship, MV Akademik Shokalski, has been chartered for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014, which is sponsored by the University of New South Wales and let by the university's professor of climate change, Professor Chris Turney — an authority on all things antarctic and a prolific tweeter and blogger.

There are 74 people on board the ship, which was built in 1982 and is now classed as a passenger ship and owned and managed by the Far Eastern Research Institute of Vladivostok, Russia. Reportedly 22 of those on board are crew, the remainder are scientists, researchers and some adventurous souls who have paid from $8,050 upwards to go along for what has turned out to be a very real adventure cruise.

According to a blog post today by Professor Turney, proceeding north the ship found its path blocked by ice pushed in by an increasingly strong southeasterly wind.

"On Christmas Eve we realized we could not get through, in spite of being just two nautical miles from open water.  We hoped the conditions would change but we have experienced several low pressure systems over the last few days which have held the ice fast. We just wanted to let all our family and friends know there is no risk to the vessel and everyone is well. Yesterday the team celebrated Christmas and morale is high. We have called for assistance due to the anticipated continuing southeasterly winds (with forecasts kindly provided by the Australian Antarctic Division at Casey Station and Meteoexploration).

"We have been informed a Chinese ice breaker called Snow Dragon (Xue Long) is currently en route from Freemantle to the Ross Sea and will be entering the pack near our location tomorrow. We have also learnt the French vessel Astrolabe is travelling to our position to provide support and will be arriving shortly after Xue Long; the Australian ship, the Aurora Australis, has also been sent from Casey and will be arriving later."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating the search and rescue effort.

AMSA's Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia) remains in regular contact with the vessel, which, says AMSA, is experiencing very strong winds and limited visibility.
Winds are forecast to abate on Friday (AEDT).

The ship is in the Australian Search and Rescue region, 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville and is stable.