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 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 3:03 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
For years, Morten Storm moved between two worlds. A radical Islamist turned double agent is lifting the lid on some of the world's best-kept secrets.
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN how they were kidnapped and says no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him since his release.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
What will happen to Scotland's business (not to mention its currency) if they vote to leave?
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The Ebola virus, very deadly and currently without a cure, is fast-spreading throughout the small West African country.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Go to any provincial city in China and you'd be forgiven for thinking the national youth pastimes are online gaming and flirting.
updated 4:51 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
North Korea calls its human rights a "superior system."
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
In Wenzhou, called the "Jerusalem of China," authorities have demolished churches.
Are you Muslim? What do you want the world to know about your religion?
updated 6:04 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT