Skip to main content

White Christmas: High spirits on trapped ship

By Naomi Ng for CNN
updated 2:21 AM EST, Fri December 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An expedition vessel has been stuck in frozen seas off Antarctica this week
  • Three ice-breaking rescue ships are expected to reach the trapped vessel by Friday night
  • Expedition leader, Chris Turney: High morale of people onboard kept everyone going
  • Turney: "We've got a large team coming to help us, it's incredible"

Hong Kong (CNN) -- For most of this week, the 74 people aboard the Russian expedition vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy have been at a standstill -- trapped in the frozen seas off Antarctica.

But the crew, researchers and tourists are taking their icy week in stride.

The Russian vessel became locked in sea ice since Christmas Eve. Despite the cutting wind and freezing temperatures, Chris Turney, expedition leader and professor of climate change at University of New South Wales in Australia said morale has been high throughout and they had a "great Christmas," though everyone was frustrated about not being able to venture out into the open ocean.

"We had a fantastic Christmas dinner, including secret Santa presents. It was important to keep the morale up," he said.

"There was ham and turkey, the chefs cooked a great meal for us. It was a welcome respite from the conditions outside," he added.

Others on board also seemed to be having an enjoyable time despite the icy weather conditions.

Alok Jha, a science correspondent at the Guardian who was also en route to Antarctica with the Australasian Antarctic Expedition said there was no shortage of the Christmas spirit.

That was before a blizzard hit Thursday afternoon, which Turney described as the hardest part.

"We were experiencing a blizzard with winds up to 70 kilometers per hour. Snow was building up on the edge of the vessel and it was quite disconcerting. But, overall, people have been brilliant and as positive as can be, given the circumstances," he said.

Currently, the ship awaits rescue from the Chinese ice breaker called the Snow Dragon, or Xue Long, that is expected to arrive later on Friday according to Turney, who spoke with the captain of the Chinese vessel.

"I just took a call from the Chinese vessel, Snow Dragon. They've made tremendous progress, and we're extremely appreciative," he said.

Help is also coming via a French vessel called Astrolabe and an Australian ship, the Aurora Australis. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority who are coordinating a rescue said both ships are on their way to the stranded passengers.

After two and a half days of waiting, Turney said the team spirit has kept them going.

"At the moment we've got very good visibility, winds have dropped," Turney said. "We've got a large team coming to help us, it's incredible. Morale is good and we just want to reassure family and friends that we're well," he added.

Meanwhile, Turney and the crew are kept company with cute, unexpected visitors in the Antarctic as they continue with their scientific research.

"It's great. Where you are in the most remote location in the world, they turn up, having a look to see what's going and then drift off after a while. They're wonderful company to have about," he said.

The expedition is retracing the footsteps of scientific explorer Douglas Mawson's 100-year-old trek to study the Antarctic region.

Turney said everyone aboard the expedition vessel is scheduled to return to southern New Zealand by January 4.

READ: Antarctic ship trapped in sea ice should be rescued by Friday

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Hamas: "Lift the siege." Israel: "End the rockets." The two sides' demands will be difficult to reconcile.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
updated 4:42 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT