Stranded Russian Ship Saved in Antarctic

World | December 25, 2011, Sunday // 17:37|  views

Rescuers have reached a Russian fishing boat stranded in the Antarctic for over a week just as Christmas Day was drawing to a close

A technician on board an icebreaker, which had been sent to the aid of the 32-member crew, has confirmed the rescue of the Russian vessel, as cited by German press agency DPA.

Just hours earlier, rescuers had said conditions were too treacherous for rescue boats to reach the Sparta, which was holed by an underwater iceberg on December 16.

"The crew have left their lifeboats and are back on board their ship. The ship is stable, it just can't be moved," Arne Schwenk said via satellite phone from Korean ice-strengthened polar research vessel Araon. "The mood onboard was euphoric," he added, and all crew members were in good health.

The Araon reached the Sparta on Monday at 1 am (1200 GMT Sunday). It was hoped it would be able to move later Monday after the hole was fixed and remaining water pumped away.

The 48-meter Sparta has been stuck next to the Antarctic ice shelf in the Ross Sea, about 3,700 kilometres south-east of New Zealand, since sending out a distress call saying it was sinking after the iceberg put a 30-centimetre hole in its hull.

New Zealand Air Force planes have made two flights to drop pumps and fuel, enabling crewmen to keep pumping water out of the hold, but they could not patch the hole well enough to allow it to resume sailing.

Earlier Sunday, the Sparta's sister ship, Chiyo Maru No 3, which was being escorted to the aid of the Sparta by the Araon, had been forced to turn back as it was too slow and unable to move through the sea ice. The Araon returned after escorting the Chiyo Maru No 3 to safe waters.

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Tags: Russia, Ross Sea, stranded, Russian, ship, vessel, icebreaker


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