01/03/2014, 00.00
RUSSIA - CHINA
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A Chinese helicopter saves 52 passengers stranded in the Antarctic

The Akademik Shokalskiy was locked in ice for 10 days. No ship that came to the rescue could penetrate the ice . The scientists on board were to study the rate of the melting ices.

Sydney ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - All passengers onboard a Russian ship, stuck in the ice in Antarctica for 10 days , were finally rescued yesterday. A Chinese helicopter landed on a emergency runway on the ice, pressed by the ship passengers themselves, and brought to the Aurora Australis , an Australian Navy rescue ship. The passengers included scientists, journalists and tourists.

The drama of the Akademik Shokalskiy began December 24 , when a chill wind from the south blew the ship into an pack ice . The passengers spent Christmas and New Year in the middle of the ice, unable to move . The ice was so thick that ships that came to their rescue - the Australis , France's L'Astrolabe , the Chinese Xue Long - were unable to penetrate it.

Just yesterday the air rescue was decided on, using a helicopter supplied to the Xue Long. The fog and the sea conditions delayed the operation for several hours.

However the 52  saved will not touch ground too soon : the Australis still has to go to the Antarctic base of Casey to refuel, then head to the port of Hobard ( in South Australia ) . In all it will still take a few weeks. The remaining 22 Akademik crew members will wait onboard for the ice to melt again. The ship has supplies and means enough to ensure a pleasant stay.

Originally, the Akademik was to follow the path of Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson on his expedition of 1911-1914 , also trying to understand the speed with which the ice of Antarctica is melting.

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