Chinese helicopter rescues ice ship passengers

Xinhua photo shows helicopter receiving  first group of passengers Xinhua photo shows helicopter receiving first group of passengers

JANUARY 2, 2014 — Although the 22 crew of the ice bound Russian expedition ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy remain on board, 52 scientists and passengers from the vessel are now aboard the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) vessel Aurora Australis.

The Xinhua News Agency reports that the passengers, as well as luggage, scientific instruments and equipment, were flown to safe ice near the Aurora Australis by Xueying 12, a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong.

The passengers were transferred in groups of 12. The BBC's Andrew Luck-Baker, who was on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, said the 15-minute one-way flight was a "white-knuckle ride".

According to the BBC, the Russian crew staying behind could be on the Akademik Shokalskiy for weeks before the pack ice clears.

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