China icebreaker steams to science ship trapped off Antarctica

China icebreaker steams to science ship trapped off Antarctica
Chinese icebreaker trapped off Antartica.

SYDNEY - A Chinese icebreaker was Friday due to reach the frozen seas where a scientific mission ship is trapped off Antarctica, as those onboard welcomed the easing of blizzard conditions.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue of the Russian passenger ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said the boat had experienced very strong winds and limited visibility.

The ship, with 74 people on board, has been trapped in ice about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville since Tuesday.

Three boats with icebreaking capability have diverted to try to help free it, with the Chinese vessel Snow Dragon expected to reach the area late on Friday.

It is not known whether it will be able to immediately cut through to the stranded ship or will wait for assistance from the other two boats, the French vessel L'Astrolabe and the Australian Antarctic Division's Aurora Australis.

Chris Fogwill, one of the scientists on the Akademik Shokalskiy, said the boat had been in an area which was normally open water but had been caught out by a change in the weather which forced them into heavy ice.

They were then hit by a blizzard on Thursday.

"We've had a blizzard rolling most of yesterday," Fogwill told the ABC on Friday. "It's beginning to ease which is good and we think, you know, that the wind is getting lighter and lighter.

"So actually we are in fairly good shape for people coming in... later today."

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