Monday, November 16, 2009

'Penguin tourists' trapped in Antarctic ice

Of the Antarctic cruise ships there is one that is a real ice breaker; the others have hardened hulls that can handle brushing against floating ice, but are not ice breakers at all. The real ice breaker got itself in trouble four days ago - and still is. But their problem is only their schedule. This ship is designed and built to handle the ice it's in. 9 News - UK More than 100 penguin-loving tourists including dozens from Britain are trapped by ice off Antarctica aboard a Russian ice-breaker cruise ship. The Kapitan Khlebnikov is in a bay near Snow Hill island, located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, and cannot leave as the bay is sealed off with ice, the Russian transportation ministry said. "The wind has currently slowed down in the area and the massing of the ice has ended. Everything is calm aboard the ice-breaker, nothing is threatening the passengers and crew," the ministry said in a statement. "When the wind changes to a favourable direction, the ice-breaker will head into clear water and on to the port of Ushuaia," at the extreme southern end of Argentina. There were 105 passengers aboard the vessel and the total delay in the ship's scheduled trip could be around two days, it added. The ship has been at its current location for four days, German Kuzin, an official with the Far Eastern Shipping Company, the ship's owner, said in televised remarks. "There's nothing to worry about there," Kuzin said. "To put it plainly, the ship got stuck between an island and an ice massif." Many of the passengers are Britons who paid more than $18,000 for a tour whose highlight was seeing emperor penguins on Snow Hill island, according to Exodus, a British tour operator. Around 50 mostly British passengers booked their tours through Exodus and have been well cared-for while the ship has been stuck, Rob Dixon, a spokesman for Exodus, told AFP by telephone from London. "There's a lot of entertainment on board," Dixon told AFP. He said the weather was improving and predicted the ship would reach Ushaia by the end of this week, two or three days behind schedule. "They've certainly seen the penguins they came to see," Dixon added, noting that passengers had been able to leave the ship by helicopter.

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