VIDEO: Stranded Passengers Flown To Safety In Antarctic
After more than a week aboard a ship stuck in ice off Antarctica, 52 scientists and paying passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy are either aboard or headed to an Australian icebreaker that will now take them to warmer waters.
Australian climate change professor Chris Turney, leader of the expedition, tweeted at 5:45 a.m. ET Thursday (9:45 p.m. in Australia, the time zone he's been using) that:
"We've made it to the Aurora australis safe & sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese & @AusAntarctic for all their hard work! #spiritofmawson."
It wasn't immediately clear whether Turney meant that all of the evacuees were on the Aurora Australis, but that seemed to be his message. He's been tweeting and posting videos throughout the ordeal. This morning, his posts included this video of the helicopter arriving.
The Guardian, which had two correspondents on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, reported soon after Turney's post appeared that the "rescue mission ... has passed off smoothly, with 52 people removed from the vessel. It wrote earlier Thursday that:
"A two-stage rescue had been planned for Thursday with a helicopter taking 52 of the passengers on Akademik Shokalskiy to the Xue Long before transferring them to another ship, Aurora Australis, on a barge in a 36-hour window of decent weather.
"But sea ice prevented the barge from the Aurora Australis, where the passengers would ultimately be transferred, being able to get close to Xue Long.
"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released a statement at 12.45 pm on Thursday saying the safest option was to do the rescue mission in one operation."
So, the evacuees were flown to "an ice floe near the icebreaker Aurora Australis."
The Akademik Shokalskiy, which was about halfway into a month-long expedition, got stuck in the ice near Cape de la Motte in East Antarctica on Christmas Eve. Its 22 crew members are staying behind. They'll hopefully be able to get underway again either after the ice breaks up or when other ships are able to clear a path.
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