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Helicopter Rescue Begins for Stranded Antarctic Ship

Dozens of passengers aboard a Russian research ship stuck for over a week in the Antarctic ice were preparing to be evacuated Thursday, after a rescue helicopter finally was able to land nearby.

Video posted on YouTube by Chris Turney, one of the scientists on the ship, showed a Chinese helicopter landing on the ice near the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stranded since Christmas Eve.

Fifty-two passengers - including scientists, tourists, and journalists - are waiting to board the helicopter, 12 at a time. After being dropped off at a nearby Chinese vessel, they will be taken by barge to an Australian icebreaker ship, which they will take on a weeks-long journey to dry land.

Blizzard conditions hampered previous attempts to evacuate the passengers by helicopter. Icebreaker ships from China, Australia, and France have also failed to reach the Russian vessel.



Seventy-four people are on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has weeks of supplies and is in no danger of sinking. Most of the 22-member Russian crew are expected to stay behind and wait for the ice to break up naturally.

The Russian ship, which left New Zealand on November 28, was trying to recreate Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica.

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