2 Jan 2014

Chinese helicopter rescues stranded Antarctica passengers

The rescue of a team of 52 passengers who were left stranded in Antarctica over Christmas and the New Year began on Thursday, after a Chinese helicopter successfully landed on a makeshift helipad.

On the tenth day since the Russian ship, Akademik Shokaliskiy, got stuck in Antarctica, a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon landed on the ice.

Video shows the helicopter checking out a makeshift landing pad, before picking up the first 12 stranded passengers. The group of scientists and tourists were then taken to an Australian 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.

He gave his thanks for help and support in a message on Twitter.

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

It became trapped on Christmas Eve, around 1,500 nautical miles south of Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania.

Everyone on board was believed to be in good condition and they were never in any great danger. It was thought that the rescue would take around five hours.