China’s research vessel and icebreaker 'Xue Long' has entered an area of clear water, after more than ten hours spent breaking up ice. A change in wind direction loosened the floes packed around the vessel, providing an 80-meter stretch of water for the Xuelong to navigate in, reports CNTV.
The vessel's helicopter had earlier evacuated all 52 passengers from the stranded Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.
According to CNTV, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the coordinator of the rescue operations, has sent a thank-you note to the Chinese Ambassador to Australia. It commends Xue Long’s contribution and professionalism in the mission.
In related news, the BBC reports that the Aurora Australis is now anchored off the Casey polar research station, to resupply the base there, and then it will head for Hobart. The rescued Australasian Antarctic Expedition passengers on board will not be going ashore, as they have been advised that unscheduled extra visits to the base would only interfere with the tightly time-tabled plan of operations at Casey.