Russian scientists trapped in Antarctic ice prison

Seventy-nine Russian scientists are among the 177 people trapped in the Antarctic ice aboard the German ship, Magdalena Oldendorff. Rescue operations are under way from South Africa and Argentina but help is expected to take two months to arrive.

The Magdalena Oldendorff became stuck in the ice on 11th June off the coast of Queen Astrid, Antarctica. Food and other supplies are being rationed, as South Africa and Argentine send rescue vessels, which are expected to meet up in the South Atlantic Ocean next weekend.

There are fears that the hull of the Magdalena Oldendorff could buckle and crack under the increased pressure of thousands of tonnes of ice, while the ship’s fuel supply could run out in the middle of the Antarctic winter, spelling the end of heating and lighting.

The South African vessel, Needles, has covered around one third of the 3,360 kilometres between the African coast and the Magdalena Oldendorff but it is being held back by 40-knot winds and heavy seas. The Argentinean ice-breaker Almirante Irizar is expected to meet the Needles next weekend.

The Commander of the Russian scientific team, Vyatcheslav Martyanov, declared by radio that the crew has been at sea for some 18 months and does not relish the prospect of another two months stuck in the ice. It has been said by some scientific missions in Antarctica that the Russian team placed themselves at risk by remaining for too long with the advent of the Antarctic winter imminent, while other missions left the area in April before the winter freeze set in.


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