January 2, 2014

Stranded Ship


Tom: A dangerous rescue mission is underway near the South Pole. And now, Scott, you have got more on this, right?


Scott: Yeah. Rescuers are trying to reach scientists who have been stranded in a ship near Antarctica since Christmas Eve.


This January 1st, the 74 passengers and crew of this massive research ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, didn’t watch a ball drop or confetti fly. They were watching for a helicopter.


They spent New Years Eve stomping on the ice that has trapped their ship for a week. The goal: to create a landing pad for a helicopter waiting to come to their rescue. But the Antarctic weather hasn’t been cooperating.


Chris Turney: We’re stuck at the moment until either the winds shift or we can get some good clear weather to get a helicopter in.


Scott: The Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand November 28th, carrying scientists, tourists and journalists on a month-long scientific expedition to study Antarctica’s wildlife and waters.


Turney: It’s a glorious day! The fog has lifted. It’s very still and calm.


Scott: But as they traveled on, toward the magnetic South Pole, the sea ice thickened, and three weeks into their trip they were locked in ice.


Turney: We are actually in a blizzard at the moment.


Scott: Extreme conditions like this, so far south, are common even in the Antarctic’s summer season.


Turney: The vessel hasn’t moved for the last two days and we’re surrounded by sea ice. We just can’t get through.


Scott: Temperatures have fallen well below zero and winds whipped up to about 50 miles per hour. But inside, the researchers and crew are able to keep warm and have enough food to last them a few weeks. And they have been pretty upbeat so far, staying in touch on social media.


Crewman: Still here, stuck at Cape De la Motte. Any passing ships, do pay us a visit. Brilliant!


Scott: Three ice-breaking ships have already tried to free them, but the ice is just too thick. The plan now? When there is good weather, a helicopter will move the passengers to the closest rescue vessel.


Turney: When we get the call, the Chinese will fly their helicopter over, land, but keep the engines turning over. We’ll get the first 16 passengers in. We’ll do it about four times, basically.


Scott: Officials hope the rescue mission can begin as soon as today.


The expedition was retracing the steps made by an Australian explorer 100 years ago, who became trapped in the Antarctic for two years.


Tom: Wow! Well, let’s hope that these guys get rescued really soon. Thanks, Scott.


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