Helicopter rescue begins for passengers stuck in Antarctic ice

January 2, 2014 09:49

A Chinese helicopter has reached a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica for nine days and is beginning to pick up 52 passengers who spent Christmas and the New Year trapped in ice, the expedition leader said on Thursday.

The helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon will take all the passengers from the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy and transfer them to an Australian Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis.

Chris Turney, the leader of the private expedition, said conditions had improved enough to mount the rescue after days of blizzards, fog and shifting sea ice.

"The Chinese helicopter has arrived @ the Shokalskiy. It's 100% we're off! A huge thanks to all," Turney posted on Twitter.

Television pictures showed the helicopter checking out a makeshift landing pad on the ice then apparently picking up the first group of 12 passengers.

The Russian ship left New Zealand on Nov. 28 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

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