SYDNEY, January 02, /ITAR-TASS/. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reports the first twelve passengers from Russia’s Akademik Shokalsky vessel have been delivered to Aurora Australis icebreaker.
The Russian captain Igor Kiselev said it was summer in the Antarctica and “at night it is as light as during the daytime,” thus the time of the day did not affect the evacuation, which might take about 5-6 hours.
The Akademik Shokalsky has 74 people aboard - a 22-strong Russian crew and 52 passengers, some of them researchers from the Australian Antarctic Expedition and others being accompanying travellers. The crew will remain aboard, and the passengers will be evacuated.
AMSA spokeswoman Lisa Martin told Itar-Tass the helicopter is expected to make a total of seven flights to the Akademik Shokalsky - five flights to evacuate people and two more flights to take away their luggage and equipment.
Each cruise of the helicopter will last 45 or so minutes and the whole operation will thus last about 5 hours.
Initially, the plan was the helicopter would deliver people to the Chinese vessel, and then they (in groups of 22) will be taken by a barge to the Australian icebreaker. However, later on Lisa Martin said the helicopter would land on the ice right next to the icebreaker.