Skip to main content

Spirits strong among passengers on ship stuck in Antarctic ice

By Tom Watkins and Ralph Ellis, CNN
updated 9:47 AM EST, Tue December 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy since Christmas have sent an upbeat message
  • YouTube video: "Lots of snow and lots of ice, lots of penguins, which are very, very nice!"
  • "The French dropped by, but couldn't get near. Bloody great shame we're still stuck here!"
  • A helicopter is expected to pick up 52 passengers, and the 22 crew members will stay aboard

(CNN) -- It may not be comparable to Gilligan's Island, but the plight of the 74 members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, aboard a research ship stuck in ice for more than a week at the bottom of the world, appeared anything but grim as 2014 approached.

"We're the A, A, E who have traveled far, having fun doing science in Antarctica!" a dozen or so of them sang on a video posted on YouTube. "Lots of snow and lots of ice, lots of penguins, which are very, very nice!"

The rhyme scheme then fell apart, but the festive mood did not: "Really good food and company, but a bloody great shame we are still stuck here! Ice cold, cha cha cha! Ice cold, cha cha cha!"

It was not all fun and games aboard the Russian-flagged MV Akademik Shokalskiy. After bad weather led the crew of the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis to suspend efforts to reach the expedition Monday, less than 10 nautical miles short of its goal, more than two dozen of those aboard the research vessel ventured onto the surrounding ice, locked arms and proceeded to stomp on the snow to mark a spot where a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, can land.

Scientist speaks from trapped ship
Trapped ship makes evacuation plans
Chinese Icebreaker ship gets stuck during rescue

The helicopter, which can carry 12 people at a time, is expected to take the ship's 52 passengers -- including the research team and journalists -- to the Xue Long.

The Australian icebreaker that tried unsuccessfully to reach the research vessel will send a barge to pick them up from the Xue Long.

The 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy will stay aboard, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

But the timing of the rescue remained uncertain as weather Tuesday remained bad.

The failed attempt by the Australian icebreaker followed one by the Xue Long, which made it to within 6 nautical miles of the trapped vessel when its path was blocked by ice.

It returned to open water and remained in the area to provide support, said Andrea Hayward-Maher, a spokeswoman for the maritime authority.

The Akademik Shokalskiy has not moved since Christmas.

Chris Turney, an Australian professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales, told CNN that there are regular briefings on the status of rescue attempts, and in the meantime, people are doing what they can to keep busy. That includes yoga and Spanish classes.

The expedition to gauge the effects of climate change on the region began on November 27. The second and current leg of the trip started on December 8 and was scheduled to conclude with a return to New Zealand on January 4.

The vessel got stuck in the ice 15 days after setting out on the second leg.

Turney said the ship was surrounded by ice up to nearly 10 feet (3 meters) thick.

It was about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville, which is about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.

On Christmas morning, the ship sent a satellite distress signal.

But by New Year's Eve, those aboard were showing few signs of distress. "Up in the air, the Chinese came, flew around once and left again!" they sang. "The French dropped by, but couldn't get near. Bloody great shame we're still stuck here!"

CNN's Josh Levs and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
updated 7:40 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
updated 12:34 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
updated 11:17 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 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