Chinese ice-breaker Xue Long that helped rescue passengers stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy vessel in Antarctica is now stuck itself.
An Australian ice-breaker carrying the rescued passengers is no longer on standby and is returning to shore.
On Thursday, a helicopter from the Xue Long transferred 52 passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis.
Russian scientific mission Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped by thick floes of ice since 24 December.
“Xue Long’s attempt to manoeuvre through the ice… was unsuccessful. Xue Long has confirmed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) [that] it is beset by ice,” AMSA said in a statement on Saturday.
“The master of Xue Long has confirmed to AMSA that the ship is safe, it is not in distress and does not require assistance at this time,” AMSA said, adding that there was no immediate danger to the ice-breaker’s crew.
Chinese ice-breaker Xue Long that helped rescue passengers stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy vessel in Antarctica is now stuck itself
It is the latest twist in what has become a complicated rescue operation in the Antarctic.
The Australian Aurora Australis had been asked to remain in open water nearby in case the Xue Long needed help – but AMSA said this was no longer needed and it had been released from its search and rescue mission.
The authority added that the Australian vessel was travelling to the Casey research base on the Windmill Islands, just outside the Antarctic Circle, to complete a re-supply task before continuing to Hobart – the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania.
Andrew Peacock, an Australian doctor and photographer who was rescued from the Russian ship, spoke of his fellow passengers’ frustration aboard the Aurora over the latest delay in their journey home, according to the Associated Press.
“So our time down south is not over yet and we are going to be delayed in our return to friends and family by some time yet, which is frustrating,” Andrew Peacock said before the Aurora was given permission to continue.
The Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped by thick floes of ice driven by strong winds, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart.
The Akademik Shokalskiy was being used by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) 2013 to follow the route explorer Douglas Mawson travelled a century ago.
Passengers from the ice-bound research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy are to be rescued in Antarctica.
A helicopter from a Chinese ship set down nearby, bringing in a crew to assess the landing situation.
The aircraft left but then returned to begin ferrying the first passengers out to an Australian ice-breaker.
Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped since Christmas Eve. Its 22 crew are expected to remain on board once the 52 scientists and tourists have left.
Akademik Shokalskiy first group of passengers to be airlifted out
The scientific mission ship was trapped by thick sheets of ice driven by strong winds, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart – the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania.
The vessel is being used by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition to follow the route explorer Douglas Mawson travelled a century ago.
“The Chinese helicopter has arrived at the Shokalskiy. It’s 100% we’re off! A huge thanks to all,” expedition leader Chris Turney tweeted.
Chris Turney’s post showed a video of a red helicopter touching down on a site that had been marked out by the Akademik’s crew.
Members of the helicopter crew checked the site and the aircraft took off again.
Three hours later, Chris Turney tweeted: “The first of the helicopters to take us home. Thanks everyone!”
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which is overseeing the operation, had earlier said it was unlikely the rescue would go ahead on Thursday as hoped because of the sea-ice conditions.