(Recasts with rescue, adds details, comments)
By Maggie Lu Yueyang
SYDNEY Jan 2 A rescue effort to remove 52
passengers on board a research ship that had been trapped in
Antarctica ice for nine days was successful, and they were
evacuated safely by helicopter, the expedition leader said on
A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon ferried
the passengers in small groups several times from the ice-bound
ship, Akademik Shokalskiy, and transferred them to an Australian
Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis.
Chris Turney, who led the private expedition, said
conditions at sea had improved enough to mount the rescue,
following days of blizzards, fog and shifting sea ice.
"We've made it to the Aurora Australis safe & sound," Turney
said on Twitter.
Turney documented the rescue mission from the stranded ship
with regular posts depicting videos and photographs.
The ship's 22 crew members planned to stay with the
well-stocked vessel until it was freed from the ice, the New
York Times reported.
Television pictures showed the helicopter checking out a
makeshift landing zone near the marooned ship, before picking up
the first group of 12 passengers.
Turney posted a short video clip of a second helicopter
taking off. His seven photographs showed passengers bundled in
heavy parka jackets, snow goggles and hats, boarding a
helicopter amid a backdrop of snowdrifts and clear blue skies.
The Russian-owned research ship left New Zealand on Nov. 28
to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led
by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.
It became trapped on Dec. 24, 100 nautical miles east of
French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500
nautical miles south of Australia's southern island state of
Everyone on board was believed to be in good condition and
weren't in any immediate danger on the ship.
The Chinese ship got within sight of the Akademik Shokalskiy
on Saturday, but turned back after failing to break through the
ice, which was more than 3 metres (10 feet) thick in some place.
Two other vessels, Australia's Aurora Australis and a French
flagged ship, also tried to help but failed to reach the ship
because of strong wind and heavy snow.
Earlier on Thursday, the Australian Maritime Safety
Authority which is coordinating the rescue, had said the rescue
had again been thwarted by ice and bad weather.
(Additional reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney and Susan
Heavey in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel
and Bernadette Baum)