On board the Aurora Australis

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Antarctic ship rescue a success

RAW VISION: Passengers from the ship Akademik Shokalskiy arrive by Chinese helicopter at the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

PT2M55S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30847 620 349

The last of the stranded Akademik Shokalskiy passengers are close to boarding their rescue ship, the Aurora Australis, four hours after the high-risk rescue operation began on Thursday afternoon.

Passengers from the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which chartered the Russian ship, cried tears of joy and relief as they finally made it on to the Australian icebreaker, nine days after becoming stranded in Antarctic ice.

The last four passengers who will board include the expedition co-leaders Greg Mortimer and Chris Fogwill, a scientist from the University of NSW.

The first load of passengers rescued from the ship Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica are delivered by Chinese helicopter to an ice floe next to the Aurora Australis icebreaker.

The first load of passengers rescued from the ship Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica are delivered by Chinese helicopter to an ice floe next to the Aurora Australis icebreaker. Photo: Nicky Phillips

The new arrivals were shown to their rooms and ate their first meal in the Aurora's mess. 

Grant Hose, a scientist from Macquarie University who signed in passengers as they came aboard, said it had been interesting to watch such a complex rescue unfold.

"The [Shokalskiy] passengers have been very grateful," he said.

Rescuers aboard the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis are lowered on a rescue boat to an ice floe next to the ship where a Chinese helicopter will land with passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy.
Photo: Nicky Phillips, The Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 2 January 2014

Rescuers aboard the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis are lowered on a rescue boat to an ice floe next to the ship where a Chinese helicopter will land with passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy. Photo: Nicky Phillips

The passengers were helicoptered in groups from the Russian-flagged ship to an ice floe next to the Aurora on Thursday afternoon, then lifted aboard the Australian ice-breaker in a rescue boat.

Joanne Sim, a paying passenger from Sydney, cried as she boarded the Aurora and said it felt great to be on the icebreaker after nine days stuck in the ice.

“It really has been an emotional roller-coaster,” she said, adding that Shokalskiy passengers had occupied their days with a range of activities including movies and games while they waited to be rescued.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long hovers over an ice floe near the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, to see if it's a good place to land during the rescue mission.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long hovers over an ice floe near the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, to see if it's a good place to land during the rescue mission. Photo: Nicky Phillips

They had even been allowed out on the ice when the conditions were safe.

One of the first Shokalskiy passengers to arrive on the Aurora, Muru Murugesan, said the passengers were not scared and the rescue was well organised.

“It was just a question of when and how we were going to be rescued,” Mr Murugesan, from Oatlands in Sydney, said.

All white: A view from the stern of the  Aurora Australis as it punches its way through sea ice towards the Akademik Shokalskiy.

All white: A view from the stern of the Aurora Australis as it punches its way through sea ice towards the Akademik Shokalskiy. Photo: Colin Cosier

“I’ve been in helicopters before."

This is the Indian-born Australian’s fourth trip to Antarctica.

Before the rescue, at 4pm Sydney time, four Australian Antarctic Division staff were lowered to the ice in a small boat to prepare a helicopter landing area and a safe walking passage to the Aurora for the Shokalskiy passengers.

The Xue Long also sent a helicopter crew with engineers to test the landing area before it left to collect the Shokalskiy passengers.

Deck areas on the Aurora were closed as the operation began.

Plans to rescue the Shokalskiy passengers changed this morning when it became apparent the Xue Long was itself unable to move out of the pack ice. The original plan was to fly the passengers back to the Xue Long and then transfer them to the Aurora using a barge.

While the Chinese ice-breaker has not issued a distress call for assistance, the Aurora Australis spent most of Wednesday trying to navigate a path between the two vessels.

Nicky Phillips and Colin Cosier are travelling in Antarctica as part of the Australian Antarctic Division's media program.