|Xu Ting (left, front), deputy leader of China's 30th Antarctic Expedition, contacts with Chinese icebreaker Xuelong aboard the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy, Jan. 2, 2014. Passengers aboard Akademik Shokalskiy were successfully transferred by Chinese helicopter to ice surface near Australian rescue ship Aurora Australis on Thursday after the Russian vessel got stuck in sea ice off the Antarctic. (Xinhua/Zhang Jiansong)|
ABOARD XUELONG, Jan. 2 -- A Chinese helicopter transferred all 52 passengers aboard a stranded Russian vessel to safe ice near an Australian rescue ship on Thursday, 10 days after the MV Akademik Shokalskiy became stuck in sea ice off Antarctica.
The passengers, as well as luggage, scientific instruments and equipment, were flown to safe ice near the Aurora Australis by Xueying 12, a helicopter on board China's icebreaker Xuelong, and are aboard the Australian ship. An earlier flight examined the surrounding area to prepare for landing on ice.
On Wednesday, Xueying captain Jia Shuliang told Xinhua that they were ready to transport the 52 scientists and tourists aboard MV Akademik Shokalskiy in groups of 12.
As it is summer in Antarctica now, night is as bright as day, so rescuing flights can be made without stop, Igor Kiselev, captain of MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said after the first group of 12 passengers were airlifted at 3:25 p.m. Beijing time (0725 GMT).
Each flight takes 45 minutes, so in all, five to six hours are needed, said the captain.
MV Akademik Shokalskiy, built in Finland in 1982, is carrying a team of scientists and other passengers to conduct scientific experiments and sent a distress call on Christmas Day after becoming trapped in heavy sea ice in Antarctic sea. It is scheduled to return to New Zealand in January 2014.
Xuelong, which left Shanghai in early November on China's 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica, has established an emergency relief working group after the Russian ship's captain sent a formal request on Tuesday for chopper rescue.