Consequences of Turney’s Antarctic junket are not yet over

The Xuelong is thought to have 111 crew on board while the Akademik Shokalskiy has 22. They are both currently trapped in the ice and the US icebreaker Polar Star is on its way from Sydney to render assistance if necessary. It will take the Polar Star about 7 days to reach the vicinity of the trapped vessels.

Cnut commanding the waves

Cnut commanding the waves

The consequences of Chris Turney’s narcissistic self-image of himself as an explorer in the Mawson mould and his irresponsible, publicity-seeking, junket into the Antarctic are not yet over. His proclamation that the ice should have melted away is reminiscent of King Cnut. Or perhaps like Cnut trying to demonstrate his limitations he was trying to demonstrate the fallibility of climate models which predict the loss of polar ice (and models such as that by his colleague Sherwood). It would be a travesty if the cost of diverting the 4 icebreakers (Chinese, French, Australian and now US) from their normal missions is not charged to Turney, the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of New South Wales and his media sponsors.

Xinhua reports:

BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) — China has set up a leading team to rescue its icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, which has been trapped by heavy floes since it rescued passengers on a Russian vessel stranded in Antarctica on Thursday.

The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) announced on Saturday the team will map out rescue plans and make “all-out efforts” to coordinate rescue operations, despite there is no immediate danger to personnel aboard Xuelong, which has abundant fuel and food supplies. …. 

Xueying 12, a helicopter on board Xuelong, on Thursday successfully evacuated all the 52 passengers aboard the Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy that has been stranded since Christmas Eve to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

However, after the rescue, Xuelong’s own movement was blocked by fields of floating ice.

Currently, Xuelong is located at 66.65 degrees south latitude and 144.42 degrees east longitude. It is surrounded by floes up to four meters thick and is about 21 km away from unfrozen waters, according to the SOA.

Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration’s Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, said the planned expedition by Xuelong is inevitably affected and changes are expected to be made to the vessel’s mission after it gets out of trouble.

“If the ship is stranded for a very long time, which is very rare indeed, then we’ll have to evacuate the people onboard and leave the vessel there,” he said.

AMSA Press Release:

6.30am AEDT Sunday 05 January 2014

US Coast Guard ice breaker to assist ships beset in ice in Antarctica

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia) has requested the US Coast Guard’s Polar Star icebreaker to assist the vessels MV Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long which are beset by ice in Commonwealth Bay.
The US Coast Guard has accepted this request and will make Polar Star available to assist.
The Polar Star has been en route to Antarctica since 3 December, 2013 – weeks prior to the MV
Akademik Shokalskiy being beset by ice in Commonwealth Bay. The intended mission of the Polar Star is to clear a navigable shipping channel in McMurdo Sound to the National Science Foundation’s Scientific Research Station. Resupply ships use the channel to bring food, fuel and other goods to the station. The Polar Star will go on to undertake its mission once the search and rescue incident is resolved.
RCC Australia identified the Polar Star as a vessel capable of assisting the beset vessels following MV Akademik Shokalskiy being beset by ice overnight on 24 December, 2013. RCC Australia has been in discussion with the US Coast Guard this week to ascertain if the Polar Star was able to assist once it reaches Antarctica.
The request for the Polar Star to assist the beset vessels was made by RCC Australia to the US Coast Guard on 3 January, 2014. The US Coast Guard officially accepted this request and released the Polar Star to RCC Australia for search and rescue tasking at 8.30am on 4 January, 2014.
The Polar Star will leave Sydney today after taking on supplies prior to its voyage to Antarctica.
It is anticipated it will take approximately seven (7) days for the Polar Star to reach Commonwealth Bay, dependent on weather and ice conditions.
At 122 metres, the Polar Star is one of the largest ships in the US Coast Guard fleet. It has a range of 16,000 nautical miles at 18 knots. The Polar Star has a crew of 140 people.
The Polar Star is able to continuously break ice up to 1.8 metres (6ft) while travelling at three (3) knots and can break ice over six (21ft) metres thick.
RCC Australia will be in regular contact with the relevant US Coast Guard RCC at Alameda, California, and the Captain of the Polar Star during its journey to Antarctica.

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