Ice Strands Expedition Cruise Ship Near Antarctica

December 25, 2013

(10:10 a.m. EST) -- The MV Akademik Shokalskiy expedition ship has become trapped near Antarctica by heavy ice and is awaiting rescue. The ship, which doubles as a cruise ship for tourist and research vessel for scientists, carries 50 passengers and 20 crew members.

According to Radio New Zealand, the ship is trapped near 1,660 miles away from Bluff, New Zealand at the very southern tip of the South Island of the country. The ship sent a distress call to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority this morning saying it was trapped and needed help getting out of the ice.

An AMSA spokesperson said three ice-breaking ships are on their way to assist the ship, but it will take at least two days for the first vessel to reach the expedition ship. However, she said, all passengers are safe and the ship isn't in any danger.

MV Akademik Shokalskiy is an ice-strengthened ship, originally built in 1982 for oceanographic research, before being refurbished as an Antarctic/Arctic passenger ship. Owned by the Russian Federation's Far Eastern Hydrometeorological Research Institute, it was in the midst of a special Spirit of Mawson voyage arranged by several scientists to replicate the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914.

One of the scientists onboard tweeted a Vine video of the ice and wrote, "We're in the ice like the explorers of old! All are well and spirits are high."

It is not yet know whether passengers will need to be removed from the ship.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor