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Icy New Year: Trapped Russian ship celebrates New Year in Antarctic

The passengers from the Russian scientific research vessel Akademik Shokalsky have celebrated New Year in the ice. The ship remains stuck off the coast of Antarctica, with a Chinese rescue vessel also reportedly being in trouble.

The crew and passengers of the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped since December 24, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Tasmania, celebrated the New Year at 11:00 GMT.

But the festivities aboard were most likely marred by the news that the rescue of the Russian ship’s passenger and crew will most likely be postponed.

China’s Xue Long (Snow Dragon) icebreaker has barely moved in the last 24 hours and appears to be stuck in the ice itself, the BBC reports.

It was initially planned that people from Akademik Shokalsky will be evacuated by helicopter to the Chinese ship and Australia’s Aurora Australis vessel.

But now, 52 passengers and four crew members aboard Xue Long are themselves waiting for favorable flying conditions to be recovered from the ship.

The Chinese captain said he’s in “holding position,” with Aurora Australis expected to break through the ice and assist his vessel.

On Monday, the attempt of Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis to rescue the trapped ship was hampered due to snow showers, strong winds and poor visibility. Now all the Akademik Shokalsky can do is keeping on waiting to be rescued.

This image taken by expedition doctor Andrew Peacock of www.footloosefotography.com on December 31, 2013 shows scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia, Ziggy Marzinellia and Graeme Clark, preparing a suitable surface for a helicopter landing next to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy (background), still stuck in the ice off East Antarctica. (AFP Photo)

Scientists on board the ship are continuing their research, drilling through the ice around the ship to photograph sea life.

As New Year approached, the tourists, scientists and crewmembers were preparing for a New Year’s party in the ship’s bar.

“It's New Year's Eve tonight, so there are all sorts of plans," said Chris Turney, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) and a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales.

"We are all keeping busy, with twice daily briefings outlining all the information we have to hand, alongside classes through the day (knot tying, languages, yoga, photography and many others) while the science program has continued as best we can," Turney said in his expedition blog.

"[We're] passing the time reading, preparing for a possible helicopter evacuation, continuing ocean studies dropping probes beneath the ice … and working on a new song for New Year's Eve celebrations which will be a nice dinner and time at the bar," ship's doctor Andrew Peacock told AFP.

There are still enough provisions on board, but Peacock said drinks were running low, with "just enough alcohol left to celebrate" the arrival of 2014.

“We are not morose or upset, just frustrated and we have no option but to settle in and keep morale high," says Peacock.

The scientists are also continuing to write their diaries. “Antarctic wildlife at its best: Adelie penguins,” Turney wrote on his Twitter page.

“It’s a nice place to work. If all goes well, we’ll soon leave this ship with a paper,” said Erik Van Sebille, oceanographer, on his video diary.

The Akademik Shokalsky, with 74 passengers on board including scientists, tourists and crewmembers, left New Zealand on November 28. It was a privately-funded research expedition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famous Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. The voyage was to visit inaccessible Antarctic huts. It was scheduled to return to New Zealand on January 4.

However, on December 24, the ship got trapped about 100 nautical miles east of a French Antarctic station, Dumont D'Urville, and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Australia's island state of Tasmania.

The ship was surrounded by ice up to nearly 3 meters thick, Turney said.

After weather conditions failed to clear December 25, the ship sent a satellite distress signal.

Earlier the Chinese ship, the Snow Dragon (Xue Long), and France's L'Astrolabe were also trying to make it to the edge of the sea ice surrounding the Russian-built ship last week. However, all of them had to cut short their missions, as they were unable to break through the ice.