8 Jan 2014

Ships on the move in Antarctic

9:10 pm on 8 January 2014

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is hailing a rescue mission in Antarctica as a great example of multilateral cooperation.

Two vessels stranded in thick sea ice have managed to break free, bringing to an end a long-running rescue mission.

The Akademik Shokalskiy on 31  December.

The Akademik Shokalskiy on 31 December. Photo: AFP / Andrew Peacock / www.footloosefotography.com

Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on 28 November last year on a private expedition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

Ice closed in around the ship at Commonwealth Bay on Christmas Eve, and while attempting to rescue it, Chinese ship the Xue Long also became stuck.

Both have now broken free and maritime authority spokesperson Sam Cardwell said on Wednesday that they no longer need help, the ABC reports.

"The captain of the Russian ship wanted to pass on his thanks to everyone that was involved in the rescue operation and obviously I'm sure they're very relieved to be free."

Meanwhile, the 52 passengers airlifted from the Akademik Shokalskiy by the Xue Long's helicopter have arrived at Australia's Casey research station aboard Australian ship Aurora Australis, so the ship can complete its interrupted resupply mission. They are expected to reach Hobart in Tasmania in about a week.

Polar Star, an icebreaker from the United States assigned to the rescue mission, is free to continue its planned voyage.