The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia) can confirm that the rescue operation from the Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica has been completed.
RCC Australia was notified at 6.15pm AEDT yesterday evening that the first group of 12 passengers had boarded the helicopter from the Xue Long at around 6pm AEDT. RCC Australia was then notified at 7.30pm AEST that the first 12 passengers had arrived at the Aurora Australis.
Five flights were conducted to take the passengers to the Aurora Australis over a distance of about 14 nautical miles. Four flights were undertaken with 12 people each flight, and the fifth flight rescued four passengers. The helicopter landed on an ice floe adjacent to the Aurora Australis.
At 10.05pm AEDT, AMSA was advised that all 52 passengers had been safely rescued and were on board the Aurora Australis.
Aurora Australis advised AMSA that helicopter operations had been completed at about 10.45pm AEDT and all passengers, luggage and equipment had been transferred.
The Aurora Australis will now start heading towards open water. The ship is currently travelling at a quarter knot in heavy ice towards open water. It will take until late evening to reach open water.
The Aurora Australis will then head towards the Casey base to complete a resupply before heading to Australia. The Aurora Australis is not expected to arrive in Australia until mid-January.
All 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy remain with the vessel. RCC Australia has overall coordination of the incident as it is in Australia’s search and rescue region and has regular contact with the vessels involved.
The search and rescue operation commenced on Christmas morning AEDT after the Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in the United Kingdom received a distress message via satellite from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. The distress message and subsequent coordination of the incident was passed to RCC Australia, who is the responsible search and rescue authority for this area.