The rescue operation for Russian ship Akademik Shokalsky has started, as a Chinese helicopter reached the stranded crew. The operation follows several failed evacuation attempts.
Fifty-two scientists and tourists are to be transferred by helicopter to a Chinese ship, 7 miles away from the Shokalsky. The operation is to consist of seven 45-minute long trips, as the helicopter can take 12 passengers at a time. The plan is to then transport them 2 miles by barge to the Australian icebreaker, the Aurora.
Twenty-two members of the Shokalsky’s crew will stay with the vessel, which is not believed to be in danger.
The Russian ship, with 74 people on board, left New Zealand Nov. 28 for a privately-funded research expedition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. The ship was scheduled to return to New Zealand on Jan. 4.