A Chinese icebreaker that helped rescue 52 passengers from a Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy stranded in Antarctic ice found itself stuck in heavy ice on Friday, further complicating the 9-day rescue operation, Reuters reports.
The Snow Dragon had ferried the passengers from the stranded Russian ship to an Australian icebreaker late on Thursday. It now had concerns about its own ability to move through heavy ice, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.
"It will attempt to maneuver through the ice when tidal conditions are most suitable during the early hours of 4 January 2014," AMSA said.
The Australian icebreaker carrying the rescued passengers, the Aurora Australis, will remain on standby in open water in the area "as a precautionary measure", the rescue agency said.
The Aurora Australis had meant to sail towards an Antarctic base to complete a resupply before carrying the rescued passengers back to Australia.
A helicopter from the Snow Dragon carried the 52 scientists and tourists in small groups from the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian supply ship late on Thursday.
Passengers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders, will probably arrive in Australia's southern island state of Tasmania around mid-January. The Akademik Shokalskiy's Russian crew will stay on board until the ice breaks up and the ship is freed.
The Russian-owned research ship left New Zealand on November 28 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.
It became trapped on December 24, 100 nautical miles east of French Antarctic station Dumont d'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Tasmania.