Ice bound ships break free in Antarctica

Last updated 12:24 08/01/2014
us ship
Reuters Zoom
The Polar Star is being sent by the US to help free Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon gripped by Antarctic ice.

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A stranded Russian icebreaker and a Chinese vessel that got stuck while trying to rescue its passengers have both now broken free from heavy ice in Antarctica.

The Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy managed to break free from heavy ice in Commonwealth Bay on Tuesday night and slowly make its way north through lighter ice conditions.

The Chinese vessel Xue Long - which had gone to the rescue of New Zealanders and Australians from the Russian ship - also escaped heavy ice about 11pm and has started moving slowly through lighter ice conditions.

Fifty-two scientists, tourists and journalists spent more than a week locked in ice before being taken by the Xue Long's helicopter to Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. The Australis is now on its way to Hobart.

The group had been aboard the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy retracing the path of 20th century Australian Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the Xue Long had advised the agency it no longer needs help at this time.

AMSA is waiting to hear from the Russian vessel, which has been beset by ice since Christmas Eve, about whether it needs further help.

The US Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star, which had responded to a request for help from AMSA, will continue to head towards the area until it is clear that both vessels are free of the ice field and no longer in danger.

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