On Thursday, a Chinese helicopter was used to break up ice and rescue a ship and its passengers trapped in ice in Antarctica. On Friday, the news came that it now may be trapped in the same way and in need of rescue.
The helicopter, known as the Snow Dragon, was part of a major rescue operation that showed a rare spirit of international cooperation in a part of the world that is not only remote but inhospitable. The helicopter was used to retrieve passengers from a makeshift landing area in Antarctica near the Russian research vessel that had been trapped in ice for more than seven days.
Released photographs of the individuals being rescued from the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy showed them grinning as they walked in a single file formation to the area to be picked up. Other pictures showed a sled filled with luggage.
From the Snow Dragon, the passengers were taken to a nearby Australian vessel, the Aurora Australis. Originally, that ship had been slated to go to the Australian island of Tasmania. The crew, however, was ordered on Friday by Australian officials to be on standby in case help was needed in Antarctica.
It has been reported that the Snow Dragon will try again to move out of the ice when there are more favorable tidal conditions this weekend. The crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy plan to stay on the ship and later make an effort to once again sail out of the area.
The ship had been stuck in the Antarctica since Christmas Eve in an area close to Cape de la Motte. This is close to 1,700 miles due south of Tasmania. Several other rescues had been attempted but the thickness of the ice brought about failure. The incident was watched around the world and journalists who happened to be passengers on the ship were sending out reports of the rescue.
The Akademik Shokalskiy had originally departed from New Zealand on December 8 on a planned month-long expedition for the purposes of studying environmental changes since the Antarctic area had been surveyed around a hundred years ago. The Aurora Australis was originally on a mission to carry supplies to replenish a base in the Antarctic. It had to cancel that mission when it was at risk itself of becoming lodged in the ice. The Snow Dragon had also had one failed attempt in its rescue but decided to stay in the area.
The 22 members of the crew have plans to stay with the ship according to the Australia Maritime Safety Authority who helped to organize the rescue. The ship does not have the possibility of sinking and there are enough supplies to last for the next seven days.
Passengers on the stranded Russian research vessel had not necessarily been horror-stricken during the ordeal. Reports were that the situation was being handled by everyone in a very calm fashion. The majority of the passengers had been reading books and watching movies while waiting to be rescued.
Efforts are now underway to rescue the helicopter trapped in ice in the Antarctica.
By Rick Hope