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U.S. Icebreaker Heads To Antarctic To Help Trapped Vessels

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.
A U.S. icebreaker has been dispatched to help free a Russian research ship and a Chinese vessel stuck in Antarctic ice.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced on January 4 that "The Polar Star" was responding to a request for assistance from Australian authorities as well as from the Russian and Chinese governments.

A Russian-flagged research ship, the "MV Akademik Shokalsky," became trapped in ice on December 24.

Late on January 2, a helicopter from a Chinese icebreaker ferried the 52 passengers from the stranded ship to an Australian icebreaker.

But the Chinese vessel found itself stuck in ice on January 3.

The U.S. icebreaker is expected to arrive on the scene on January 12 and take two to three days to complete its mission.

The leader of the "Akademik Shokalsky" expedition has defended the scientific value of the venture, which was aimed at Southern Ocean currents and global carbon distribution, against criticism that it was an ill-advised bit of "tourism" and against suggestions by nonexperts that its exploits undermined evidence of global warming.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa