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Chinese icebreaker fails to free Russian research ship from ice captivity

December 28, 2013, 4:46 UTC+3 28
The Akademik Shokalsky has 74 people on board - 22 crew and 52 passengers
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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

SYDNEY, December 28 (Itar-Tass) - China’s icebreaker The Snow Dragon has failed to make its way towards the Russian research ship the Akademik Shokalsky, trapped in ice off Antarctica, the Russian ship’s captain, Igor Kiselyov, has told Itar-Tass by telephone.

“The Chinese icebreaker stopped about 6.7 miles away from us,” Captian Kiselyov said. “It failed to come anywhere nearer. Now we shall be waiting for the arrival of the Australian icebreaker The Aurora Australis. It is far more powerful that The Snow Dragon. I do hope that it will manage to make its way towards us.”

Kiselyov said the Australian icebreaker was expected to approach the Akademik Shokalsky at 19:00 local time (at about Sunday noon Moscow time). The ship that is the closest, France’s Astrolabe, is of no help, because it is far less powerful than the Chinese one and is surely unable to operate in such adverse ice conditions.

“We also pin some hopes on the wind,” Kiselyov said. “The temperature of water overboard is two degrees above freezing. The south-eastern wind measures seven meters per second. There is a huge iceberg, B09B, fifteen miles away from us. It is a major factor that causes the ice to get thicker. Should the wind’s direction change to western, north-western or south-western, we may try to get out on our own. However, according to the weather forecast I have such a change cannot be expected over the next few days.”

The Akademik Shokalsky has 74 people on board - 22 crew and 52 passengers - a group of scientists from the Australian Antarctic expedition and tourists.

“The situation on board is normal and business-like,” Kiselyov said. “No panic, no complaints. The crew keep doing their job. The scientists proceed with their research, drill ice, take water samples, hold science briefings and arrange lectures for each other and watch movies, in other words, find dozens of ways to get through this unusual experience.

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