AMSA has a Media Release – Search and rescue of passenger vessel trapped in ice underway – The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating a search and rescue for a Russian passenger ship beset by ice approximately 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart.
MV Akademik Shokalskiy – not much bigger than a tug – we can only hope they are in no danger. More update and complete news should be forthcoming – taxpayers money is helping to pay for this. The Falmouth MRCC received a distress message via satellite – which they passed on to AMSA. It is interesting that some news accounts such as the ABC refer to a “cruise ship” – while expeditionsonline.com refer to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) as the dominant numbers on the ship.
The AMSA Media Release goes on to say – Three ships with icebreaking capability have responded, including the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) vessel Aurora Australis, and are now en route to the area. The closest vessels are at least two days sailing time away. The other two ships are likely to be China’s colossal ex Russian red icebreaker, the Xuelong or Snow Dragon – and the French ice breaker L’Astrolabe, a well known visitor at Hobart over the years.
The Aurora Australis sitrep page on the 24th has them 25% way through the 30 hours of pumping 900K litres of diesel ashore at Casey. They look to be 650 miles west of the Akademik Shokalskiy so to respond immediately would be to interrupt their supplying of Casey and set back further their warm season work. The Aurora Australis is no great shakes as an icebreaker anyway – they were delayed in ice themselves last month – and in 2012. Surely AAD would not lightly delay further this seasons work if people on the Akademik Shokalskiy were in no danger.
Fairfax reports early on 26th that the Aurora Australis is already on her way from Casey on what is a two day voyage to help. It is not clear if the Chinese ice breaker Xuelong is closer; considering the Xuelong is much more powerful in the ice than the Aurora Australis – AAD must have had good reasons to drop the unloading at Casey ? I suppose National issues are at stake.