Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Helicopter Rescues 52 Passengers from Ship Trapped in Antarctic Ice

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Helicopter Rescues 52 Passengers from Ship Trapped in Antarctic Ice

Article excerpt

LONDON -- In a dramatic operation displaying unusual international harmony in one of the world's most remote and inhospitable places, a red-and-white Chinese helicopter Thursday rescued 52 passengers trapped for more than a week aboard an icebound Russian research ship in Antarctica, ferrying them a dozen at a time to an Australian icebreaker.

The twin-rotored helicopter, based on a Chinese icebreaker, the Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, flew several sorties across miles of packed ice to pluck scientists, tourists and journalists from a makeshift landing zone next to the marooned MV Akademik Shokalskiy research vessel.

The blue-hulled Russian ship was surrounded by such a dense and extensive pack of ice that it could not move, and vessels designed to break through ice could not get near. Images from the people being rescued showed them smiling as they walked in single file across the ice to a landing area that had been cleared by passengers and crew to enable the helicopter to touch down. Other images on the Internet showed crew members hauling sleds with the passengers' luggage.

As the rescue got underway with the Chinese helicopter's arrival, Chris Turney, a research expedition leader and a climate change professor at Australia's University of New South Wales, said in a message on Twitter that the "Chinese helicopter has arrived the Shokalskiy. It's 100% we're off! A huge thanks to all."

The rescue was watched around the world by scientists and others, with journalists on board sending progress reports as passengers were lifted to safety aboard the Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis.

Before the operation began, rescuers said they were worried that the weather would turn bad and prevent the helicopter from flying. The Xue Long captain, Jia Shuliang, told the Xinhua News Agency that the rescue would take five or six flights and last three or four hours if weather conditions were good. …

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