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Stranded Russian Antarctic Passengers To Be Evacuated By Helicopter

A photo by passenger Andrew Peacock from December 30 of the Russian research vessel "MV Akademik Shokalsky" stuck in the ice off East Antarctica awaiting rescue.
Most of the passengers and some of the crew stranded on Russia's "MV Akademik Shokalsky" scientific expedition ship off Antarctica will be evacuated by a Chinese helicopter.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on December 30 that "a decision has been reached to evacuate 52 passengers and four crew members by helicopter from China's 'Xue Long' ship, should the weather allow."

The Russian ship is carrying 74 people, including scientists, tourists, and crew, many of them Australian, as well as Russian crew members.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said earlier on December 30 that bad weather forced back an Australian icebreaker that had been struggling to reach the ship and had also prevented a helicopter rescue.

It said that the weather "made it difficult and unsafe for the 'Aurora Australis' to continue today's attempt to assist the 'MV Akademik Shokalsky.'"

Attempts by two other icebreaking ships to reach the "MV Akademik Shokalsky" were unsuccessful.

The expedition has been seeking to follow the century-old path of Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, dpa, and Reuters