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US dispatches icebreaker Polar Star to free Russia's Akademik Shokalsky from ice captivity

The United States has dispatched the icebreaker Polar Star to the Antarctica to free the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalsky from ice captivity, Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy with the U.S. Coast Guard told Itar-Tass on Saturday.

In her words, the icebreaker Polar Star has met a request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, setting out from the port in Sydney, Australia, to help to the two ships in distress - the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalsky. The U.S. icebreaker is to arrive in the incident area within a week.

Akademik Shokalsky Captain Igor Kiselev told Itar-Tass that he hoped the U.S. icebreaker would help the ice-trapped Russian vessel. "We hope that the wind will change that will allow us to get out from ice captivity ourselves," he said. "We also hope absolutely firmly that the U.S. icebreaker Polar Star will help us to get out from ice captivity," he noted.

The Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalsky, which had been trapped in the ice field in the Antarctica since December 25, was carrying a Russian 22-strong crew and 52 passengers, including group of scientists of the Australian Antarctic Expedition and travellers accompanying them. The crew stayed onboard. The passengers, their luggage and research equipment were evacuated on Thursday and are staying aboard the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long sailing nearby was used to evacuate them. The helicopter had airlifted 12 people in each flight and had brought them to an ice field near the Australian icebreaker.

[Source: Itar Tass, Washington, 05Jan14]

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