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Weather worsens in Antarctic area where ship trapped

December 26, 2013, 9:54 UTC+3 SYDNEY
The Akademik Shokalsky is expected to be freed from the ice trap on Friday or Saturday
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© EPA/DEAN LEWINS

SYDNEY, December 26. /ITAR-TASS/. The weather is worsening in the Antarctic area where the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalsky is trapped in ice, an officer of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said, noting the wind became stronger in the area.

The weather factor has not affected the rescue operation, she said. The Akademik Shokalsky is expected to be freed from the ice trap on Friday or Saturday.

Three ships, Australian, French and Chinese vessels, are on the way to the Akademik. Most likely, the first will be the French or the Chinese icebreaker.

It seemed like a snow storm begins. If the weather becomes severer, it may complicate the operation, the officer said.

The AMSA confirmed the Russian ship had no structural damage and the people aboard were safe.

The research vessel got trapped in ice on Wednesday morning near the Antarctic coast.

The Australian Antarctic expedition started out from New Zealand in late November and is expected to end in mid-January.

The spokesman for the expedition said the situation was believed not to be dangerous. The vessel is only some three km away from the open water.

Meanwhile, Christmas has been celebrated aboard the Akademik Shokalsky.

Aboard the ship are 22 crewmembers and 52 passengers, including scientists from an Australian Antarctic expedition. "Everything is all right aboard the vessel, except for the fact that it cannot get out of the 10-point ice," the director of the Far Eastern regional scientific research hydro-meteorological institute, Yuri Volkov, told Itar-Tass. He received the information from the captain on Thursday (Moscow time). To note that the situation did not cause concern, Volkov said the holiday of Christmas was celebrated aboard. Ten-point ice means up to one meter high ice without holes.

An Australian icebreaker and a Chinese research icebreaking vessel are on the way to help the trapped Russian ship. Both are expected to approach the Akademik Shokalsky in the evening on December 27. After the ship is led to clear water, it will continue its scientific expedition near the Antarctica. There is plenty of fuel and drinking water aboard, Volkov said.

The icebreaker Aurora is sent from Australia specially to help the Akademik. The Chinese ship is carrying equipment for the Chinese Antarctic polar expedition, but has also responded to the request for help.

On December 24, the Akademik Shokalsky was caught in ice within the zone of control of the Australian sea rescue coordination centre. The ship is about 180 km east of the French Antarctic station of Dumont D' Urville.

Referring to the captain’s report, Volkov said the air temperature was one degree below zero in the area and the speed of the east wind was 15 m/sec. The ship was drifting northwest.

The Akademik Shokalsky was built in Finland in 1982. The 2,140-tonne ship is 71 m long, and its speed is 14 knots. Its tanks hold 320 tonnes of oil, and the water tanks have a capacity of 250 tonnes. The research ship belongs to the fleet of the hydro-meteorological institute.

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