An Antarctic blizzard has halted an Australian icebreaker's attempt to retrieve 74 people on board a Russian research ship.
The ship has been trapped for nearly a week in ice, while high winds prevent a helicopter rescue. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue, said Monday that the icebreaker Aurora Australis
had to return to open waters because of poor visibility.
A Chinese icebreaker, Snow Dragon
, was sent to free the vessel and came within 11 kilometers of the stranded Russian ship on Saturday, but had to stop when thick ice blocked its progress.
The MV Akademik Shokalskiy is pictured stranded in ice in Antarctica, Dec. 29, 2013.
A crew member of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy walks on the snow-covered aft deck of the stranded ship in the Antarctic, Dec. 29, 2013.
Barbara Tucker, a passenger aboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy looks at an Adelie penguin walking by on the ice, Antarctica, Dec. 29, 2013.
A thin coat of snow covers the deck of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, Antarctica, Dec. 29, 2013.
Nicole De Losa, a passenger on board the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, waves to a helicopter sent from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon) to assess ice conditions, Antarctica, Dec. 29, 2013.
Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Antarctica, Dec. 27, 2013.
People gather on the ice next to the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy which is trapped in thick ice, Antarctica, Dec. 27, 2013.
Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick ice, East Antarctica, Dec. 27, 2013.
Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Dec. 27, 2013.
If the Australian vessel fails to break through the 3-meter-thick ice, a helicopter on the Chinese ship could be used to evacuate the passengers on the trapped vessel. But the storm has grounded the helicopter for the time being.
The Russian ship is carrying 74 people, including an Australian research expedition, tourists and crew members. The ship became frozen in an ice flow near the South Pole on Tuesday. Officials say the vessel is not in danger of sinking.
Route of MV Akademik Shokalskiy
In a video posted on Twitter Saturday, members of the Australian research team said they could see the Snow Dragon
on the horizon.
The Russian ship, which left New Zealand on November 28, was trying to recreate Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica.