Passengers trapped by ice

Last updated 20:32 25/12/2013

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An Antarctic-bound ship spent Christmas awaiting rescue after the ship became wedged in thick sheets of sea ice.

The ice-breaker Akademik Shokalski set sail for the sub- Antarctic and Antarctica from Bluff on a mission of science and discovery, which sailed on November 28.

The month-long Australasian Antarctic Expedition is following in the footsteps of explorer and scientist Sir Douglas Mawson, one century on. 

Central Otago woman Nicole Kerr is one of the crew members.

Omakau-raised Ms Kerr was on board the Akademik Shokalski as a chef.

The ship had been on a multi-day tour from New Zealand to visit several sites along the edge of Antarctica.The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) received a distress call on this morning, notifying the rescue co-ordination centre that the ship was trapped in ice and would need help.

It is not known how long the ship has been unable to break free from the ice floes.

An AMSA spokeswoman said three ships had been sent to assist but it would take at least two days for the nearest vessel to reach the remote location - about 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart.

"It's in quite a remote part of the world," she said.

"But we have everyone safe. The vessel isn't in any immediate danger."

The Russian-built ship, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, had been on a tourist trip with about 50 passengers onboard and 20 crew members.

Before leaving Bluff, The Australasian Antarctic Expedition leader professor Chris Turney said scientists and science- lovers paid their own way on the trip, which would help get the public excited about science by "blending science and adventure".

It was to be a month-long and two-leg journey, which could be followed online at spiritofmawson.com.

- The Southland Times and AAP

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