National Geographic Daily News
 Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.

A Russian ship with 74 people onboard is stuck in a shaft of ice about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia.

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW PEACOCK, AUSTRALASIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION/FOOTLOOSE FOTOGRAPHY/AP      

Tanya Basu

National Geographic

Published December 26, 2013

Update: The Russian vessel, the M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy, which was stranded off the coast of Antarctica with 74 people onboard, remains stranded. Attempts were made by the Chinese icebreaker, Snow Dragon, and other Russian icebreakers, but the ice was too thick. Rescue crews hope to get to the stranded passengers soon.

A Russian vessel is stranded in ice off the coast of Antarctica with 74 people onboard, including the scientific team recreating explorer Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition from a century ago.

The ship, the M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy, is waiting for emergency help—though help might take some time to come, given a blizzard that pummeled the area. The ship locked up in the ice on Christmas.

"The vessel hasn't moved in the last two days, and we're surrounded by sea ice," said Chris Turney, leader of the modern-day Australasian Antarctic Expedition, said in a video posted on Twitter. "We just can't get through."

The blizzard that locked the ship in ice had also forestalled immediate rescue.

"We have wind speeds on average of 50 kilometers [30 miles] an hour, reaching in excess of 70 [45 miles] kilometers an hour," Turney said.

No injuries have been reported thus far, and according to a tweet from Turney, the blizzard has passed—though the ship remains solidly lodged in the ice.

What exactly are Turney and his team attempting to do in Antarctica? Here are five things you need to know about the expedition and why it matters.

1. Who is Douglas Mawson?

Most people are familiar with explorers like Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott, two explorers who raced to reach the South Pole.

But Douglas Mawson was different. Along with two fellow explorers, Xavier Mertz and Belgrave Ninnis, Mawson sought to study the shelves of ice rimming Antarctica, ones that had remained untouched for millions of years. The trio left a base camp hut in Commonwealth Bay on December 14, 1912.

The scientific expedition turned into an epic life-or-death struggle: Ninnis, along with the team's vital gear, food, and dogs, tumbled through a 150-foot-deep (46-meter-deep) crevasse.

Mertz died on the way back.

Mawson fought the elements to return alone and on the brink of death to the team's hut on February 8, 1913. But he was triumphant, bearing valuable data that would shape modern understanding of Antarctica. His travails prompted Sir Edmund Hillary to call Mawson's tale "the greatest survival story in the history of exploration."

Map of Mawson's trek.

Had the ship carrying the trio of explorers in 1912, the Aurora, gotten icebound the same way the M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy did, there would have been no rescue option and certain death. Today's technology allows for connecting with rescue missions, but John King Davis, the skipper guiding the Aurora over 100 years ago, was terrified of the possibility of being marooned in ice—making the trek the three explorers took even more impressive.

(Read about the expedition in "Into the Unknown" in National Geographic magazine; see the gallery of photos from the original expedition here.)

2. Why are we recreating the trip Mawson took one hundred years ago?

One hundred years after Mawson's journey, we still don't know much about the Antarctic.

Plus, the century mark for Mawson's trip serves as a marker of exploration. The current crop of explorers are hoping to document some of the same data and compare them to Mawson's numbers, "using the twist of modern technology," Turney told National Geographic earlier this month.

As may be expected, global warming might play a role in this, he suggests, particularly with respect to melted ice in the East Antarctic.

The group will also test the salinity of the ocean, take censuses of local bird populations, drill into the ice to extract mineral data, and send drones to map Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay.

3. Where are the scientists going?

The goal is for the group to follow Mawson's trek, collect data, and find the original hut that Mawson returned to.

One related question remains worth noting, however: Where is the South Pole?

Prince Harry supposedly reached the South Pole earlier this month, but debate later broke out about the multiple—three, to be exact—South Poles in the area.

Why is this the case? Let's remember, the South Pole is essentially on a huge chunk of ice, which means the continent of Antarctica is constantly shifting around and moving.

Throw in global warming and ocean currents and you've got the recipe for a South Pole that moves about 33 feet (10 meters) per year.

Then there's the idea of a magnetic South Pole, which also isn't exactly steady, as it's been shown to move northward toward Australia about six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) per year.

Looking for a South Pole that doesn't move? Check out the trustworthy ceremonial South Pole. And while you're at it, you can even take a photo there.

4. Is help on the way?

Yes—the Australian Maritime Safety Authority tweeted that they are sending a search-and-rescue team toward the M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy.

 

 

According to AMSA, the ships being sent have "icebreaking capability" and are expected to arrive by Friday when winds subside.

5. Has the team been able to collect any information yet?

No fear: despite being stranded on ice, the exploration team has already begun collecting information, as documented by Turney.

You, too, can follow the expedition by tracking the team's progress to the South Pole or checking out their blog, The Spirit of Mawson, which is updating followers of the team's progress.

 

Follow Tanya Basu on Twitter.

26 comments
john aaron
john aaron

THE 1970'S IT WAS GOLBE COOLING. THAY DO NOT KNOW, THEY WANT TO, BUT THEY CAN NOT TELL .THEY ACT LIKE THEY MADE THE EARTH, THE SUN. THEY ARE GOOD BUT NOT THAT GOOD.THEY THINK PEOPLE HAVE A LOW LEVEL OF INTELLGENCE.

 The most recent ice age, during which most of the northern hemisphere was covered with glaciers, occurring about 1.2 million to 9,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. Little ice age, a period of colder weather marked by growth in alpine glaciers that began about 5,000 years ago and lasted until the 19th century in some parts of the world.

The 1930s Dust Bowl forced tens of thousands of families to abandon their farms.The unusually wet period, which encouraged increased settlement in the Great Plains, This was the year in which an extended and severe drought began which caused crops to fail, leaving the plowed fields exposed to wind erosion On November, 1933, a very strong dust storm stripped topsoil from S Dakota farmlands in just one of a many bad dust storms that year. Then, beginning on May 9, 1934, a strong, two-day dust storm removed massive amounts of topsoil in one of the worst such storms of the Dust Bowl. The dust clouds blew all the way to the east, where they deposited 18 million pounds of dust. Two days later, the same storm reached cities in the east to New York. The world is always changing and continent always moves, so does the weather hot or cold wet or dry. The earth will clean it self like it has done from the beginning of time and the sun will shine. There is no justification to put all them people in so much danger. This year will be a record breaker on cold weather for 0 degrees and below.



john aaron
john aaron

Global warming alarmist caught in Antarctic ice that wasn't supposed to be there!

You should let them know there is no global warming. Also people The global warming scare has GOT TO GO.Because there is no evidence of global warming and no evidence that human activity can cause or prevent global warming that they now call changes in climate.Actual measurements -- not computer models -- show that there has been no global warming , even though carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are gradually increasing.Obviously there is therefore no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. So why put people in danger for this. I hope the USA ship will not get stuck to, and all will be safe soon. Good luck and do not do this again.

sarah krall
sarah krall

National Geographic should be embarrassed.   This was not a scientific voyage.   It was not an expedition.   Merely one more nicely packaged tourist voyage.   I don't begrudge that; I merely begrudge the words "expedition" and "scientific".  The planners offered people an exciting journey to a magnificent land.   I've worked in the Antarctic for just shy of 3 decades and these are conditions commonly met.   International research resources have been compromised to help "rescue" (they were in no danger; just had schedules to meet") tourists lucky enough to visit this beautiful land.  It happens every year.   Someone needs the "highway patrol" and the local SAR team to come rescue them from bad fortune, bad luck, bad planning or bad weather.   No nation will say no.   They will always come to the rescue of those who are ill prepared to save themselves or die for their adventure.   It's hundreds and hundreds of thousands of science dollars misappropriated every year.  I so wish these "expeditions" were able to honestly take care of themselves and not sensationalize experiencing one of the most precious places on earth.   These people were healthy, safe, well-fed, warm and entertained.  They didn't worry about leaving the crew behind !!!   Why on earth did they think they'd been through an expedition?  

Alain Hervel
Alain Hervel

How much fossil fuel was burnt to send "scientists" who don't even understand the weather pattern over there and tourists to the still pristine Antarctic? Can't we leave this part of the planet untouched?

Ronnie Weir
Ronnie Weir

If I, were an explosive expert, (and I'm not) why not use appropriate and precise amounts of thermal bombs to break a path, in or out ? Thus, getting the ship moving. Is getting to the site a hazard for air rescue for food, water, fuel, and an expert team, for explosives ? Even air lifting the passengers and crew, out of there ? Is this not Earthlings who need help ? Where is our technology and equipment (World Wide Assistance) ? Or, is it all about profit and expense ?

georges muylle
georges muylle

A lot of useless exploration and money wasted when you have a lot of people dying of hunger on our planet.

Anyway it is always a few rich priviligees  who goes there and do not give a dam about the poors of our world ,sorry I am not interested.

Happy New Year hey!!! to the real people who have to battle to survive every days 

georges muylle
georges muylle

A lot of useless exploration and money wasted when you have a lot of people dying of hunger on our planet

S S.
S S.

Looks like nothing's changed in 100 years. Didn't learn anything from Mawson's crew, did we? Some places weren't meant for humanity - now knock off with panicking people about melting ice - there's nothing to be concerned about. How much have we spent on Antarctica "exploration"  (more like barely surviving) anyway?

Environmentalists'/warmists' hypocrisy is striking:

They believe CO2 is warming the atmosphere, but how much fuel do they burn and how much CO2 is produced from said fuel - to stay warm down there?

They (warmists) are so afraid of losing the ice, they drill holes in it and use icebreakers to break it up. Where is the sense in that?

They think CO2 is causing melting, but how much CO2 is produced by taking these cruises - and now rescues???

One more thing worth noting: environmentalists don't believe in disturbing the wildlife, but tag them to the detriment of the wildlife. 



John Swallow
John Swallow

One can wonder if this ignorant charlatan, Chris Turney, gives any thought to what DID not happen in 1912.

"The expedition is being led by Chris Turney, “climate scientist”, who has “set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.” The purpose of the expedition is “to discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.”

[…]Had the ship carrying the trio of explorers in 1912, the Aurora, gotten icebound the same way the M.V. Akademik Shokalskiy did, there would have been no rescue option and certain death."

Dan Cosgrove
Dan Cosgrove

"That's IT!"  "A cruise to Antarctica!"

"But won't it be too cold?:"

"Nah, that 's the trick!  We're going during South Pole Summer!"

Steven Yaskell
Steven Yaskell

So "if you add global warming" it moves. How does it equal ice propagation so fast it traps modern ships?

John Barrett
John Barrett

Jumped the gun a bit didn't you.

Sunday 29th December, still stuck in the ice.

DONNA E.
DONNA E.

THAT WOULD BE AWSOME ...JUST TO SAY I WAS THERE AND DID IT,,,,GREAT,,,WISHING U ALL A SAFE RETURN 

Mark Ziegler
Mark Ziegler

Would not one think they would carry explosive charges to free up the ice?

Christa McReynolds
Christa McReynolds

I sailed on the Akademik Shokalskiy in July of 2010 from Svalbard to Greenland to Iceland. We were 29 passengers plus Russian sailors and support crew. To have 74 people on board must be pretty 'cozy'. -  One day we were barely moving because of sea ice, next day an awsome storm buffeted our little ship.  We had a marvelous voyage saw polar bears in Svalbard, had T-shirt weather on the east coast of Greenland. Would be glad to do it over again.

Kelsey Eliasson
Kelsey Eliasson

Warming and ocean currents do not affect it at all really... the south pole must be over 1000km from the ocean.  Regardless, isn't the 'pole' marker moved each year to compensate for glacial movement?

Ronnie Roark
Ronnie Roark

Is this casuistry? Does the continent of Antarctica move around any more than, say, Australia? Isn't the ice on the continent, rather than the other way around?

yes thattoo
yes thattoo

@Ronnie Weir

Ronnie, while there are several different types of bombs that could be described as "thermal", they rely either on small-area high-temperature (e.g. thermite) or large-area low-temperature ( napalm ), neither of which would make even a small dent in the pack ice.  The problem is not so much the ice itself as it is the fact that an intense southeast wind keeps pushing more of it in and 'packing' it.  Normally an ice-breaker can go in and break up a path for the ship to follow, but in this case the ice re-packs right behind the ice-breaker.

Using even high-explosive bombs to break the ice would have the same result - the ice would just re-pack immediately.

Rex Munday
Rex Munday

@S S. As an intellectually honest man, Mawson would be spinning in his grave at the exploitation of his good name by fraudsters like Turney

Johannes Herbst
Johannes Herbst

@John Swallow  


Carbonscape tries to produce charcoal from swadust by using microwaves. This is what they call


 technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels


The charcoal should be used to produce "green steel". I'm a bit green too, but this seem to be not  very effective. And of course, the business is not profitable. They still are seeking for investors.

yes thattoo
yes thattoo

@Mark Ziegler

The problem is not so much the ice itself as it is the fact that an intense southeast wind keeps pushing more of it in and 'packing' it. Normally an ice-breaker can go in and break up a path for the ship to follow, but in this case the ice re-packs right behind the ice-breaker.

Using even high-explosive bombs to break the ice would have the same result - the ice would just re-pack immediately.

yes thattoo
yes thattoo

@Kelsey Eliasson

No, there isn't an "official" south pole marker and there is no "official" person or group designated to go out and move it each year.  Whenever some scientific expedition decides to locate the south pole, which is rare, they will usually put up some kind of marker as to where it was at that instant.  These markers stay up until nature or some subsequent group removes them.  Since they're usually considered to be historic rather than accurate, they tend to stay up.  This is why Prince Harry found three of them.

yes thattoo
yes thattoo

@Ronnie Roark

When they speak of the south pole moving they are referring to the physical location on the ice surface.  The ice is approximately 1 mile thick at this point, and yes, it moves.

People saying that the continent of Antartica moves are usually just short-handing it or poorly interpreting what someone else said.

Johannes Herbst
Johannes Herbst

@Ronnie Roark  


You've got it!


"Throw in global warming and ocean currents and you've got the recipe for a South Pole that moves about 33 feet (10 meters) per year."


I  was wondering if Global Warming could move a big continent like Antarctica.

Share

How to Feed Our Growing Planet

  • Feed the World

    Feed the World

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

The Innovators Project

See more innovators »

Latest News Video

See more videos »

See Us on Google Glass

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »