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All 52 passengers on a Russian ship that has been stranded in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve were successfully rescued using a helicopter that will take them to a nearby Australian ship. The international operation was organized by Australian officials, who confirmed that the rescue mission was a success overnight.
The helicopter carried the passengers in groups of 12 from MV Akademik Shokalski to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, reports The Associated Press. Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which coordinated the mission, confirmed its success.
Although the passengers are safe, they won’t reach land for two weeks. The Aurora Australis is on its way to the island of Tasmania and that will take at least two weeks.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the helicopter was actually from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which was supposed to receive the passengers. Unfortunately, it is also stuck in ice, but has not sent a distress call itself.
The AP notes that it appeared that weather had botched Thursday’s rescue attempt as well, but when it was decided that the passengers could be taken to the Australian ship, the attempt went ahead.
A team of scientists on the Akademik Shokalskiy had hoped to recreate explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 Antarctica trip. "I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home," scientist Chris Turney told the AP.
“It really has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Joanne Sim, who paid to be on the trip, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
image: Wikimedia Commons