MOSCOW, December 29 (RIA Novosti) – An Australian icebreaker is closing in on a Russian tour vessel trapped in sea ice in the Antarctic, an Australian news portal reported Sunday.
The Aurora Australis ship is 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) away from the stranded Akademik Shokalsky, News.com.au reported, citing a statement by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
The Aurora Australis is expected to arrive at about 12 p.m. GMT (4 p.m. Moscow time), the authority said.
The Australian ship’s journey marks the third rescue attempt of the 74 scientists, explorers and tourists trapped on board the Russian icebreaker, which has been stuck in thick ice off East Antarctica since December 25.
China’s Snow Dragon icebreaker came within just seven nautical miles (11 kilometers) of the stranded vessel on Saturday, but was forced to turn back after also having problems with the dense ice. An earlier rescue attempt by a French vessel also failed.
The team of scientists and tourists on the Academik Shokalsky had been retracing a famous Australian Antarctic Expedition from 101 years ago. The fare for tourists was $15,000 each, according to the website of tour agency Expeditions Online.
The agency described the ship, was built by a Finnish shipyard for the Soviet Union in 1982 for polar research, as “fully ice-strengthened.” The vessel, chartered by the Australian company Aurora Expeditions, is owned by the Russian government and is based out of Vladivostok.