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Friday
Jan032014

Chinese Icebreaker Trapped After Helping in Antarctic Rescue

axily/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 52 passengers rescued from an icebound ship in Antarctica might now become the rescuers.

The Chinese ship that sent a helicopter to rescue the passengers on board the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is now stuck in Antarctic ice and might need a rescue of its own, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

An Australian icebreaker carrying the 52 passengers is waiting in open water to see if it has to go back to help the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon.

The trapped vessel says it will try to break free when the tide conditions change in the next few hours.  The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis is waiting around 7 miles north of the Snow Dragon as a precaution. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says there's no immediate danger to the Snow Dragon.

Before the Aurora was asked to remain in the area, it was en route to the Australian island state of Tasmania to drop off its rescued passengers.

Andrew Peacock, a rescued passenger aboard the Aurora Australis, says he's frustrated in the change of plans.

"Frustrated because we had hoped to have some certainty regarding a plan for returning to family and loved ones after already many changes, but of course we are very aware why there is a new situation here and so can't be too upset," Peacock told ABC News in a statement. "Having to just accept the situation for what it is and find ways to stay calm about it all and keep occupied -- it's a wonderful environment, a beautiful sunset over the ice right now."

The five-hour rescue mission Thursday included five helicopter trips and smiles all around once the operation was over.

"I was immensely relieved for the people under my care. I was pleased with having extracted them from that situation," expedition co-leader Greg Mortimer said.

Attempts by three icebreakers to reach the ship were foiled by the thick ice and raging storms. Previous air rescues were delayed because of blinding snow, strong winds and fog.

"It was just a feeling of relief and having completed the job safely and everyone's back on board," Aurora Australis Capt. Murray Doyle said.

The 22 crew members still aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy are expected to remain with the vessel, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The ship isn't in danger of sinking and has weeks' worth of supplies on board.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28, got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 1,700 miles south of Hobart, Tasmania. The scientific team on board the Russian vessel had been re-creating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio