The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is delayed onboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy which has issued a distress signal while beset by ice

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.

15 comments to The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is delayed onboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy which has issued a distress signal while beset by ice

  • Well known effect of global warming now affecting rescue -
    Antarctic rescue of ship trapped in ice could be hampered by blizzard: AMSA – 26 Dec 2013
    www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-26/antarctic-rescue-could-be-hampered-by-blizzard/5174964

  • Gina

    In situations like this I believe there is not a choice. AMSA requests all ships within a certain range to lend assistance. Perhaps you could ask AMSA for clarification as it is the coordinating search and rescue body.

  • Glad

    Gina rescue is on the way a quick as possible,tomorrow they will reach AAE,before that no ones knows yet how the rescue or help will turn up.
    AAE is only stuck ,nothing else..so may ice breaker from outside the site will be only needed..
    Every one on the ship is happy and calm,no damage,no danger at this point.

    A few participants on the expeditions just have confirm via telephone call

  • Dr K.A. Rodgers

    There is a reporter from ‘The Graudian’ aboard. He has noted the daytime temperature of -1oC as “warm” despite it being below the seasonal average for high summer.

  • The more news accounts I read – the plainer it seems to me that the MV Akademik Shokalskiy is not in distress. The ship pushed further into the ice – standing into an area of increased hazards when there were opportunities to turn back into clear water. Initially they presumably had concerns about the potential of moving ice to damage the vessel but that does not seem to be the case now.
    Perhaps AMSA should now put out an amended response saying that only one ship is coming to clear a path. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) ship Aurora Australis was part way through unloading diesel and stores more than 500 miles west at Casey and reported interrupting that work to head to the aid of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. So the AAD work routine for the summer has been set back again – after being delayed twice in ice for a total three weeks in November. Why AMSA would think the AAD ship Aurora Australis can do much in the way of serious ice breaking is beyond me. In a nutshell – it looks as though the AAD work program has been set back again – this time for a marginal reason and the sooner the Aurora Australis could resume her seasonal work the better.

    Would it be reasonable for AMSA to say something like this to The Australasian Antarctic Expedition onboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy?

    It is clear from news reports that you and your vessel are no longer in distress.
    AMSA is amending our call for three ships to come to your aid – one ship should suffice and the nearest ship that should assist you is the Chinese ice breaker Xuelong.
    We suggest you discuss with the Captain of the Xuelong re the clearing of a path to open sea.

  • ianl8888

    The MSM here in Aus have censored the critical details of course, lest the public become confused

    Just as the “meeja” buried the failed alarmist BOM prediction of “heatwaves” over Xmas, and for the same reason

    Despicable, but completely predictable

  • 4.30am AEDST on 28th – Chinese ice breaker Xue Long – now in sight of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy
    Chinese ship breaks through ice in Antarctic rescue mission
    www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/27/chinese-ship-breaks-ice-antarctic-rescue-akademik-shokalskiy
    Photo from the Guardian who have staffer onboard.
    Fairfax also have a journo onboard but must be asleep.
    The ABC are way behind – pathetic.
    Latest around 7am is that the Xue long is thwarted by the ice thickness. I expect they can look around for an easier track.
    Track of the Xuelong from MarineTraffic.com at around 5am AEDST 28th Dec 2013 – as she clears a path towards the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

  • AN Antarctic rescue mission has suffered a setback after a Chinese icebreaker had to abandon its bid to free a ship stranded in sea ice.
    A group of Australian scientists, explorers and tourists has been stuck on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy since Christmas Day.
    The ship, with 74 people on board, sent a distress call after becoming trapped in heavy sea ice, which has continued to expand around it over the past three days near Antarctica.
    Three ice-breaking ships were sent to free the stranded vessel, located more than 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart.
    China’s Snow Dragon icebreaker was the first to arrive and rammed through much of the sea ice until it came within six-and-a-half nautical miles of the stranded vessel.
    But in a setback to the rescue mission, the icebreaker had to turn back on Saturday after it, too, encountered heavy sea ice that threatened the ship’s own safety.
    “It can’t break through any further,” said Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher.
    “That vessel is now making its way back from the direction it came in.”

    A good job it’s still the melt season.

  • Looking at the synoptic chart. About 2 days of light winds, followed by onshore gales.

  • Ian George

    On SBS news the other night one of the passengers said that there was less ice around when Mawson was there. How did that comment get pass the censors?

  • Talk now of using a helicopter on the Chinese vessel to evacuate the passengers, but presumably not the crew.

  • Ian George

    Here’s what Mawson faced in Commonwealth Bay in 1913.
    /Users/ianspencer/Desktop/Digital Collections – Pictures – Hurley, Frank, 1885-1962. The Aurora lying at anchor, Commonwealth Bay [Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914] [picture].webarchive

  • Gina

    wazsah, Fairfax is on board Aurora Australis, not Akademik Sholkalskiy. Aurora is still some hours away from AS.

  • Thanks Gina for putting me right there.
    The discovery of kimberlites in Antarctica extends the vast Gondwanan Cretaceous province
    The BBC reports – New findings hint at diamond deposits in Antarctica
    www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25417441
    Abstract of article in Nature – The discovery of kimberlites in Antarctica extends the vast Gondwanan Cretaceous province
    www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/131217/ncomms3921/full/ncomms3921.html
    Abstract -
    Kimberlites are a volumetrically minor component of the Earth’s volcanic record, but are very important as the major commercial source of diamonds and as the deepest samples of the Earth’s mantle. They were predominantly emplaced from ≈2,100 Ma to ≈10 ka ago, into ancient, stable regions of continental crust (cratons), but are also known from continental rifts and mobile belts. Kimberlites have been reported from almost all major cratons on all continents except for Antarctica. Here we report the first bona fide Antarctic kimberlite occurrence, from the northern Prince Charles Mountains, emplaced during the reactivation of the Lambert Graben associated with rifting of India from Australia-Antarctica. The samples are texturally, mineralogically and geochemically typical of Group I kimberlites from more classical localities. Their ≈120 Ma ages overlap with those of many kimberlites from other world-wide localities, extending a vast Cretaceous, Gondwanan kimberlite province, for the first time, into Antarctica.

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