MOSCOW, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – A Chinese icebreaker that played a key role evacuating people this week from a Russian vessel stranded in the Antarctic ice pack is now itself trapped in dense ice, maritime authorities said Saturday.
The crew aboard the Xue Long ship have food supplies for several weeks and are not in immediate danger, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said, citing the captain of the Chinese vessel.
The AMSA said that the Xue Long doesn’t need assistance for now, but that the Australian ship Aurora Australis was ordered to stay in open water nearby on Friday night as a precaution.
The Chinese ship participated in rescuing 52 passengers on Thursday from the Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian cruise vessel which had been stuck in the Antarctic since December 24.
A rescue helicopter from the Xue Long flew the passengers to the nearby Aurora Australis, leaving the Russian ship’s crew of 22 on board to wait for warmer weather, when the ship can make its own way out of the ice.
The helicopter rescue was a last-ditch effort after several rescue attempts by the Xue Long and other vessels were also foiled by the heavy ice pack.
The team of scientists and tourists on the Akademik Shokalskiy had been retracing a famous Australian Antarctic Expedition from 101 years ago. Expeditions Online, the tour agency that organized the journey, described the ship on its website as "fully ice-strengthened."