CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation today.
The Chinese helicopter carried the scientists and tourists from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy in groups of 12 to an Australian icebreaker, said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue. The Aurora Australis will now take the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania, a journey expected to last two weeks.
"I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home," expedition leader Chris Turney told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the Antarctic.
All 22 crew members stayed with the icebound vessel, which is not in danger of sinking and has weeks' worth of supplies on board. They will wait until the ice that surrounds the ship breaks up.
The eagerly anticipated rescue came after days of failed attempts to reach the vessel. Blinding snow, strong winds, fog and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time and again.