The Chinese icebreaker which rescued dozens of passengers from a stranded Russian ship in Antarctica has now itself become trapped by ice, Australian officials have said.
The Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, which on Thursday used its helicopter to ferry those onboard the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy to the safety of an Australian vessel, has been unable to free itself, authorities said on Saturday.
“Xue Long’s attempt to manoeuvre through the ice early this morning was unsuccessful,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement.
“Xue Long has confirmed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority it is beset by ice.”
Speculation about whether the ship was stuck had mounted for several days given it had hardly moved after its failed attempt to cut through the ice to reach the Shokalskiy.
AMSA said the master of the Chinese ship had confirmed that the vessel was safe, was not in immediate distress and did not require assistance.
“There is no immediate danger to personnel on board the Xue Long,” AMSA said, adding that the vessel had food supplies for several weeks.
Fifty-two people on a scientific expedition were eventually lifted by helicopter from the Xue Long to the Australian Aurora Australis.
The Australian icebreaker resumed its journey home on Saturday despite the Chinese vessel remaining stuck in ice.
The Russian ship that launched the original expedition became stuck on December 24 in frozen seas, 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d’Urville.