Poor Weather Halts Rescue of Researchers Stranded in Antarctic

By Courtney Spamer, Meteorologist
December 31, 2013; 5:23 AM ET
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UPDATE: (7:00 p.m. EST, Jan. 1, 2014)

The passengers aboard the Russian research ship stuck in thick Antarctic ice for more than a week are to be rescued Thursday, Jan. 1, 2014, by helicopter, according to the Associated Press. The helicopter which is onboard the Chinese vessel, the Snow Dragon, will rescue the researchers and tourists one dozen at a time, the article stated.

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A Russian research ship carrying 74 people onboard, according to CNN, remains stranded in thick ice in the Antarctic as of Monday evening local time.

Rescue attempts to the stranded ship, called the Akademik Shokalskiy, have been delayed due to inclement weather for several days. The weather will begin to improve over the next 24 hours and rescue efforts should be able to begin thereafter.

"Everybody's fine onboard," John Black a passenger and Australasian Antarctic Expedition Member said on a recent YouTube video.

An Australian icebreaker named the Aurora Australis stopped short of a rescue by 10 miles due gusty winds and poor visibility, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told CNN.

A Twitter post late Monday local time by Chris Turney, a passenger and professor at the University of New South Wales read, "Bad news: Aurora couldn't get through. Tried twice. Low visibility and heavy ice. Returning to open water. Try again tomorrow?"

The "Snow Dragon," a Chinese icebreaker, was also nearby. The Chinese icebreaker carries a helicopter which will be used to lift passengers and crew off of the stranded ship if the ship fails to reach the passengers yet again.

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The above image is of German-owned Magdalena Oldendorff from June of 2002, setting off towards Antarctica. Scientists were rescued off the trapped vessel on July 10, 2002. (AP Photo / Edwuan Teich)

"If the [Aurora Australis] has to take us onboard, the Chinese helicopter has to get here and it certainly won't in this gale," Black said late Monday. "We're waiting for a change in the weather for either of those [rescue] options," Black said.

Despite being summer in the Southern Hemisphere, much of the Southern Ocean remains flooded with ice.

A storm system will continue to move through the Southern Ocean, and already brought, blizzardlike conditions to those on the ship. However, this storm will finally begin to depart the area on Wednesday.

"There may be a 1 or 2 day break in the weather late this week when lighter winds and dry weather settles into the region where the ship is stranded," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Wanenchak said.

Despite the predicament, their spirits remain high based on numerous social media posts by the passengers. CNN reports the passengers and crew have supplies for several weeks.

A YouTube video posted Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 by a passenger on the Akademik Shokalskiy, a stranded ship in the Antarctic.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologists Eric Leister and Andy Mussoline contributed to the content of this story.

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