Bad weather delays rescue

A PLANNED helicopter rescue of passengers stuck on an Antarctic research ship that's been lodged in ice since Christmas Day will not go ahead today because of bad weather.

The helicopter on Chinese ship Xue Long is standing by to pick up the stranded MV Akademik Shokalskiy passengers after attempts by several ships, most recently the Aurora Australis, to break the ice and free the ship failed.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the helicopter was ready to go but was waiting until the weather eased to pick up the 52 passengers, who would be taken back to Xue Long and then transferred to the Aurora Australis.

Xue Long is located nine nautical miles north of the Russian-flagged MV Akademik Shokalskiy, at the edge of the packed ice. Its helicopter can only take 12 passengers at a time and will have to make five trips.

AMSA said the Akademik's 22 crew members are expected to stay with the ship.

Aurora Australis was forced to abandon its rescue attempts yesterday at the risk of becoming stuck in sea ice itself. It is about 16 nautical miles east of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

Even once they're on board the Aurora Australis, the rescued passengers will have weeks to go at sea.

The Aurora Australis is due to resupply Casey Station and will not return to Hobart for several weeks.

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