A group of scientists, journalists and volunteers on an excursion to Antarctica have had an even whiter Christmas than they dreamed of, as their ship became trapped in heavy ice off the coat of Antarctica on December 25. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) commemorates the 100th anniversary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s expedition to the eastern Antarctic. The current voyage aims to replicate many of the measurements made by Mawson’s crew in 1911-13, to record changes in the region over the last century.
Two journalists from the UK’s Guardian, Alok Jha and Laurence Topham, are aboard the ship and have been blogging and tweeting about the expedition as it made its way to Antarctica. On December 26, Jha reported that the ship, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, had been hit by a blizzard on Christmas Eve. By Christmas day, it was beset by ice and unable to move. Yesterday, December 27th, a Chinese ice-breaking ship, the Xue Long, attempted to reach the Akademik Shokalskiy but was unable to navigate through the thick ice.
As they await help from other vessels, Jha and Expedition leader Chris Turney both reiterated that the ship’s passengers are not in any danger, and that the scientists are using the extra time to do research. As Jha wrote, “Being on this continent is a privilege. Not just because it is so remote, unique or because you hear indescribable silence or see epic empty landscapes. The privilege comes from being in a place that requires you to engage with it, become attuned to it and make a serious attempt to understanding it…Right now the continent has us in its grasp and, though help is coming, the continent will decide when to let us go.”