An Australian icebreaker is closing in on a ship wedged in Antarctic sea ice as part of a second rescue mission to free the stricken ship.
A group of scientists, explorers and tourists has been stuck on the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy, about 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart, for the past five days.
Two icebreakers have given up their efforts to push through the thick and dangerous ice floes near Antarctica to try to free the trapped research ship.
A third icebreaker, Australia’s Aurora Australis, is on its way to the ship and was due to arrive about 11 o’clock last night.
It is the last ship in the area that will be able to help.
If the Aurora Australis can’t battle through the ice, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says a second option may be to consider ferrying trapped passengers with a helicopter.
The locked-in ship, with 74 people on board, sent a distress call on Christmas Day after becoming trapped in heavy sea ice.
The ship had been undertaking the Spirit of Mawson voyage, which is retracing Sir Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition.
Illawarra scientist Professor Chris Turney, of the University of NSW, is leading the expedition, comprising scientists, explorers and enthusiasts undertaking climate research. University of Wollongong academic Ben Maddison is also on board.
Prof Turney said during several interviews with international media outlets that everyone was in good spirits despite the ordeal.
The Aurora is rated at being able to push through ice slightly deeper than one metre thick.