52 Passengers Rescued From Stranded Antarctic Ship

The Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week.

January 02, 2014, 1:29 AM

Jan. 2, 2014— -- All 52 passengers were airlifted off a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week, according to officials.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said today the passengers were transported by helicopter off MV Akademik Shokalskiy and taken to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

"We've made it to the Aurora australis safe & sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese & @AusAntarctic for all their hard work! #spiritofmawson," expedition leader Chris Turney tweeted.

Saving Stranded Passengers on Cruise Ship in Antarctica Via Airlift

The helicopter on board a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, began airlifting passengers around 3 a.m. ET from a makeshift helipad created on ice next to the trapped vessel. The Aurora will now carry the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania, arriving by mid-January.

Shortly before the rescue began, expedition spokesman Alvin Stone told ABC News in an email, "Fingers crossed this all goes smoothly and we are coming to the end of this soap opera on ice."

The 74 scientists, tourists and crew aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian-crewed research vessel touring the Antarctic, have been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve. Attempts by three ice breakers to reach the ship have been foiled by the thick ice and raging storms. Previous air rescues have been delayed because of blinding snow, strong winds and fog.

The 22 crew members are expected to remain with the vessel, according to AMSA, who is coordinated the rescue. The ship isn't in danger of sinking and has weeks' worth of supplies on board.

Passengers on the Akademik Shokalskiy have been passing the time by reading and watching movies, but everyone took the situation in stride.

Live footage emerged Tuesday of a group of the researchers aboard the ship ringing in 2014 by singing a song about their experience and laughing.

The ship's passengers are mostly scientific researchers from Australia and New Zealand, in addition to some members of the public who signed up to accompany the scientists on a journey retracing the steps of the first exploration to Antarctica some 100 years ago.

ABC News' Gio Benitez and Mallory Thompson contributed to this report.

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