RUSSIAN EXPEDITION CRUISE SHIP IS NOW PARTIALLY EVACUATED. Skeleton Crew Left Aboard Awaiting Summer Thaw.(Image: Public Domain)
As we reported previously the Russian ice operations capable expedition cruise ship AKADEMIK SHOKALSKIY has been trapped in the Antarctic ice with 74 scientist, tourists, journalists, and crew members aboard. The Chinese Ice Breaker XUE LONG (SNOW DRAGON) attempted to break through to the stricken ship but the ice proved too thick . An Australian ice breaker eventually arrived to assist but the combined efforts of the two ships proved inadequate to the task. It is the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer so the ice should start thinning soon and the ship has an ice strengthened hull and lots of supplies, but there is no prediction on the duration of the delay. The decision has been made to remove the scientists and tourists by helicopter. This will leave 22 crewmen aboard to tend to the ship with more than ample supplies until they can eventually navigate out of what should be a diminishing ice field over time.
It was interesting to see the Russians, Chinese , and Australians working together given that our usual maritime news coverage of China involves Chinese naval aggression in the China seas aimed at the island territories of her neighbors. It is always interesting to note that China with no Arctic Coast seems to display more interest and investment in maritime polar operations near both polar regions that the United States which has thousands of miles of Arctic Ocean coast line and a permanent Antarctic station.