Russian ship freeing itself from ice in Antarctic

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 5:07 AM

A Russian icebreaker carrying more than 100 tourists, scientists and journalists on an Antarctic cruise has been successfully moving through ice and is just about 100 meters away from clear water, its owners said Thursday.

The Captain Khlebnikov icebreaker has had trouble freeing itself of sea ice earlier this week near Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea. It was supposed to return to Ushuaia, Argentina, two days ago but now is not expected until this weekend at the earliest.

Officials have said the people onboard weren't in any danger and were using the unplanned stop to take helicopter tours of the area. Snow Hill Island lies off the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts up toward South America.

Fareastern Shipping Co. spokeswoman Tatyana Kulikova said Thursday the icebreaker has come within 100 meters of clear water.

She said a deep fog and a rising tide prevented the ship from immediately freeing itself of ice. "The captain and the crew are now waiting for ebb to start and ice pack to weaken to reach clear water," she said.

The cruise was advertised as a unique opportunity to watch emperor penguins in their natural habitat. Tour operator Exodus Travel has said 51 British tourists were among the ship's 101 passengers.