Officials on Thursday confirmed that all passengers on board an icebound Russian ship have been successfully evacuated after spending more than a week waiting for rescue teams to reach them in the Antarctic.
The 52 scientists and tourists were airlifted by a helicopter belonging to a Chinese icebreaker and brought on to an Australian supply ship.
Passengers were airlifted from a makeshift landing pad on the ice beside the Russian ship to an ice floe near the Australis.
The 22 crew members are expected to stay with their icebound ship, which is not in danger, until the ice breaks up and the Shokalskiy can sail on under her own steam again.
The vessel has been trapped in thick pack ice 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d'Urville since December 24, with several icebreakers forced back to open water by impenetrable floes.
A helicopter rescue was announced on Tuesday, but heavy rain and winds saw it shelved until Thursday morning, when a second attempt was foiled by unfavourable sea ice.
Expedition leader Chris Turney expressed relief that the wait was finally over.
"We've made it to the Aurora Australis safe and sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese and the (government's) Australian Antarctic Division for all their hard work," Turney tweeted.
The Aurora will carry the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania, arriving by mid-January.
The scientific team on board had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica. Turney had hoped to continue the trip if an icebreaker managed to free the ship.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-01-02