Ice-bound explorers celebrate new year

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 15:28 01/01/2014

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The world's southernmost New Year's celebrations took place on board the Russian ship stuck in Antarctica, with no shortage of ice as a team of polar explorers remain on standby for evacuation.

The 74 people, including four Kiwis, on board the Akademik Shokalskiy have been stuck in thick sea ice since Christmas Day. Several rescue attempts over the last week have been abandoned and they are expected to be evacuated by helicopter when weather conditions improve.

A video of their celebrations was posted this morning, featuring a song composed by passengers followed by a traditional countdown to midnight.

"The whole world is making a fuss, Big Brother House has nothing on us.

"The Guardian and the BBC are putting out news on you and me.

"We're wishing you a happy New Year, bloody great shame we're still stuck here."

The Spirit of Mawson Expedition leader Professor Chris Turney tweeted Happy New Year from everyone on board the ship this morning, as did Alok Jha from the Guardian newspaper.

 

Turney also tweeted that it was "warm, wet and windy", and visibility conditions meant it was unlikely they would fly this morning.

Everyone seemed to be in high spirits, although the same could not be said for Guardian video producer Laurence Topham's online diary posted on December 30.

 

Yesterday afternoon, passengers from the Russian ship walked down the gangplank to set up a makeshift helipad for their rescuers on a flat area of the ice covered in fresh snow.  

The passengers formed the world's southernmost choir, singing songs, including Auld Lang Syne, as they tramped down an area for the helicopter to land on, the Guardian reported.

They were awaiting evacuation by the helicopter on board the Chinese ship Xue Long which attempted the initial rescue but was forced to turn back.

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The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis failed to break through the thick sea ice this week, leaving a helicopter evacuation the only option.

All 52 passengers would leave the ship and all 22 crew members were expected to remain on board.

The passengers would be rescued by helicopter in groups of 12 and would be initially transported to the Xue Long before being transferred to the Aurora Australis.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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