Rescued Antarctic group due home on Jan 22

Passengers rescued from an ice-bound ship in the Antarctic are expected to reach Tasmania on January 22.

But the effort that rescued 52 expeditioners, many of them from Australia and New Zealand, will delay the Australian Antarctic Division’s shipping schedule, including the resupply of Antarctic stations.

University of NSW Professor Chris Turney, who lives in the Illawarra, led the Australian Antarctic Expedition to the region at the end of last November but the expedition’s Russian vessel, Akademik Shokalskiy, became stuck in thick ice on Christmas Eve.

After more than a week of being locked in ice, the 52 scientists, tourists and journalists aboard the ship were airlifted by a helicopter from a Chinese vessel to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

The rescue disrupted the resupply mission of the Aurora Australis to Australia’s Casey station as it diverted 800 nautical miles to help the stricken vessel.    

The Aurora Australis, with the rescued passengers aboard, is due soon at Casey station.Australian Antarctic Division director Dr Tony Fleming said the ship should be ready to head back to Tasmania about January 13, arriving in Hobart about January 22. 

‘‘This is about two weeks behind schedule and will mean delays to the rest of the season,’’ he said in a statement.

A US Coast Guard icebreaker, the Polar Star, has been sent from New Zealand to go to the aid of the trapped Russian and Chinese ships and is expected to arrive on Sunday.

AAP

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