It will take not more than half a month for the Agalas ship to reach the ice-bound Magdalena Oldendorf

It will take not more than fifteen days for the South African ship Agalas, which left the port on Sunday, to reach the ice-bound Magdalena Oldendorf on board of which there are 107 people, including 74 participants in the 47th Russian Antarctic expedition.

The head of the Russian Antarctic expedition, Valery Lukin, who stays in St Petersburg, said on Monday that the reserves of food and drinking water on the Magdalena are quite enough for at least three weeks. The health of the members of the crew and the Russian specialists do not arouse apprehensions.

The Agalas, a high class ice-breaker, has on its board two Superpuma helicopters with a 400 nautical miles radius of action and a great load-carrying capacity. The Agalas will not enter the heavy ice; its task is to reach the region from which its helicopters will fly to the Magdalena and bring to it food and emergency rescue equipment and on its way back will take on board Russian scientists and members of the crew.

According to Valery Lukin, the Argentinian ice-breaker Almirante Irizar will leave for the same region on June 18-19. Its task is to free the Magdalena from the ice captivity. But because there is no confidence that it will be possible to do it has been decided to rescue the people by helicopters.

He also noted that it was the owner of the Magdalena who will bear all the expenses connected with the rescue operation.

Valery Lukin emphasised that it is early to speak about the causes why the Magdalena has found itself to be ice-bound. This may be the technical state of the ship, a human factor or natural conditions. Until we receive the ship's documents, the information from the on-board instruments data recorders about the state of the ice in that area, as well as other kind of information we cannot look for the culprit, he said.

The head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition also underscored that the information given in some mass media that the Magdalena initially was unable to work in Arctic conditions did not correspond to reality. This ship is of a high ice-breaking type SA-15 (Arctic Supplier-15). Earlier, it belonged to the Murmansk Steamship-Line but in the 1980s was sold abroad.

The Magdalena Oldendorf conducted the operation for replacing members of the Russian Antarctic Expedition. Usually this operation was conducted by the Akademik Fyodorov, a ship of a high ice-breaking type. However, at the present time it is under repair.

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Author`s name Editorial Team