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26 December 2013

Australian ship stuck in Antarctic ice over Christmas, 70 on board

Seventy people have been trapped in the ice of Antarctica at Christmas, on a voyage to the remote and frozen continent. The nearest vessel able to come to their rescue is almost 3,000 kilometers away.

The ship full of tourists, explorers and scientists was sailing in Antarctica on a voyage from New Zealand, when it got stuck in the ice.

Despite the vessel being the Russian-built ice-strengthened, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, it cannot move.

On Christmas day, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority got a distress call from The Spirit of Mawson's voyage. Three ships have been sent on the rescue mission.

It's quite a remote location, an AMSA spokeswoman said, as quoted by AAP.

"But we have everyone safe. The vessel isn't in any immediate danger," she added.

The ship's passengers didn't seem too intimidated by the prospect of spending the holiday stuck in the ice in the middle of nowhere, though.

The expedition leader, Chris Turney, wrote on Twitter on Christmas day, "Heavy ice. Beautiful; light wind. Only -1deg C. All well. Merry Xmas everyone from AAE."

The voyage was in fact in commemoration of the prominent explorer, Douglas Mawson's voyages to Antarctica.

The voyage was to visit Mawson's Antarctic huts which previously couldn't be accessed because of an iceberg.

Antarctic exploration has been deemed dangerous in the 20th century, with winter temperatures falling as low as -80 degrees Celsius. Antarctic tourism was darkened by the tragic crash of an Air New Zealand flight into Mount Erebus in 1979 that killed all 257 people on board.

Land-based tourism has been regarded as highly hazardous as well. A working paper submitted in 2008 by Germany and France to the XXXI Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) stated that the increase and enlargement of land-based tourism facilities would create factual situations, which are not or only barely reversible.

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