SYDNEY, January 05, 5:36 /ITAR-TASS/. The crew of the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalsky keeps working to keep the ship in the state of seaworthiness and waits for the arrival of the United States Coast Guard polar-class heavy icebreaker Polar Star, captain of the Russian ship Igor Kiselev told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
He gave comments on the reports by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star will leave the port of Sydney within a few hours and will head for the Antarctica to help the Russian ship Akademik Shokalsky and the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon), both of which are trapped in the thick ice.
“As far as I am concerned the Polar Star sails at a speed of 12 knots, so, according to preliminary estimates, she is expected to break through to our ship on January 12. I would like to note that these are absolutely preliminary estimates, as everything will depend on the weather,” Kiselev noted.
The heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star can break a 1.8-meter-thick ice at a speed of three knots and more than six metres thick ice at the lower speed. “The ice is 3-4 metres thick in our area and 5-metre-thick ice floes exist. So, it is possible to assume with a high degree of probability that the Polar Star will break through to us,” Kiselev said.
“The crew are feeling all right, the routine work continues. Everybody understands that the Polar Star can lead us to the clean water,” the Akademik Shokalsky captain noted. “Yet, the weather is not favourable for us today: strong south-western winds are blowing (14 metres per second), a snow storm and visibility of around 300 metres. We are keeping in constant radio contact with the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which is 11.8 nautical miles (21.8 kilometres) away from us. Their situation is also stable, meanwhile, we have agreed that if something happens we will immediately help each other,” he said.
The Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalsky, which had been trapped in the ice field in the Antarctica since December 25, was carrying a Russian 22-strong crew and 52 passengers, including a group of scientists of the Australian Antarctic Expedition and travellers accompanying them. The crew stayed onboard. The passengers, their luggage and research equipment were evacuated on Thursday and they are staying aboard the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long sailing nearby was used to evacuate them. The helicopter had airlifted 12 people in each flight and had brought them to an ice field near the Australian icebreaker.