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article imageIcebreaker runs aground in Antarctica leaving 68 stranded

By Karen Graham     Feb 25, 2016 in World
At the bottom of the world, it's supposed to be summer, but a blizzard with winds of 105 mph caused Australia's flagship icebreaker Aurora Australis to break its moorings and run aground, stranding 68 expeditioners and crew.
The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) reported the incident happened on Wednesday when the ship was on a resupply mission to Mawson Station. Some 30 researchers at Australia's Davis Research Station were waiting to be transported back home.
The Daily Mail is reporting the AAD said in a statement that gale force winds of 170 kilometers (105 mph) caused the ship to break its moorings and run aground, at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour, breaching the hull. "A total of 68 expeditioners and crew are on board, and all remain safe and well," The statement said.
AAD director Nick Gales says the breach in the hull poses no threat to the stability of the ship or of fuel leaking into Antarctic waters. "Attempts to re-float the vessel will occur when the weather conditions ease," Gales added.
It is estimated that it will take the crew three days to fully assess the condition of the ship before it will be ready to sail once it is afloat. It is not known at this time if the ship will be able to continue on its mission. The AAD says it has contingency plans in development should the need arise to achieve the voyage's plans by other means.
Besides resupplying Mawson Station, the Aurora Australis was supposed to pick up 30 researchers from Davis Station, who were headed back to Australia. Fox News reports that Davis is the most southerly of Australia's four research stations in the Antarctic.
The United States is sending a specially equipped LC-130 plane from the U.S. Antarctic Program to pick up the researchers at Davis Station and will transport them to airstrip-equipped Casey Station, so they can continue their trip home. Once there, they will be flown home by the AAD's A319 Airbus, reports NBC News.
The Aurora Australis is owned by P&O Maritime Services but is chartered by the AAD. This same ship was involved in a dramatic rescue in late 2013 when 52 passengers and crew became stranded in sea ice aboard the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy icebreaker.
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