Spending new year stuck in ice can be fun

BEING stuck in thick sea ice off the coast of Antarctica has not stopped passengers and crew of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy from celebrating the new year.

Expedition leader Chris Turney, journalist Alok Jha and video producer Laurence Topham did a live cross with CNN to Times Square in New York yesterday, an hour before the ball dropped, and said that both passengers and crew were in good spirits.

Earlier they released a video of those aboard the ship singing in the new year with a song about being stuck in the ice.

The Russian-flagged research vessel has been trapped in pack ice since Christmas Day despite attempts by three icebreakers to free it.

The Aurora Australis called off its rescue attempt on New Years Eve and passengers are now hopeful of a helicopter rescue.

Mr Topham said passengers walked onto the ice yesterday to find a suitable landing pad.

A helicopter on Chinese vessel Xue Long is waiting to airlift the 52 passengers out of the stuck ship, but was unable to attempt the flight yesterday due to bad weather.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the helicopter, which was nine nautical miles north of the Russian-flagged Akademik, just at the edge of the packed ice, would have to make five trips to ferry all the passengers back to the Xue Long.

``It's all ready to go, they are just waiting for a break in the weather,'' she said.

The passengers would then be transferred by barge onto Aurora Australis, last reported as 16 nautical miles east of the Akademic, and would stay aboard that ship while it completes its supply run to Casey Station.

It would not be expected to return to Hobart for several weeks.

The Akademic's 22 crew members plan to remain with the ship.

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