All 52 passengers aboard the Russian research vessel Akamedic Shokalskiy, which became trapped by sea ice over Christmas, have been evacuated.
The ship, which was carrying scientists, tourists and crewmembers, sent out a distress call on Christmas morning to say that it was stranded.
Several attempts were made by icebreaker ships, including Chinese Xue Long and Australian Australasia Aurosis, but each failed. Xue Long, also known as Snow Dragon, had to abandon its attempts when it became stuck itself and was forced to return to open waters.
However on Thursday, all passengers were successfully airlifted to a nearby Australian ship by a helicopter sent out from another Chinese ship. Fifty-two passengers were evacuated, but 22 crewmembers will remain on board until it becomes free.
Expedition leader Prof Chris Turney tweeted, “We’ve made it to the Aurora australis safe & sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese & [the Australian Antarctic Division] for all their hard work!”
While stranded, scientists and researchers used the opportunity to observe local marine life and count birds in the area, whilst passengers reportedly celebrated New Year’s Eve with songs.
This is the second time this year that research scientists have run into trouble over extreme weather conditions in the poles. Back in May, Russian scientists were forced to abandon their research station after extreme ice melting.
But this winter, a satellite detected 50% more ice in the Arctic region on the same period last year, although the amount of ice in the region is now 9,000 sq km. This figure was 30,000 sq km in 1980.