Argentine Icebreaker Aids Ship in Antarctic Sea

Washington Post, July 20, 2002


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The crew of an Argentine navy icebreaker, seeking to rescue a stranded German research ship, worked Saturday to extricate the vessel from the thick ice off Antarctica where it has been trapped since early June.

Most of the 79 Russian scientists and 28 crew aboard the research ship Magdalena Oldendorff were rescued by helicopter on June 27, but the icebreaker Almirante Irizar is trying to get the ship and its remaining crew safely to open waters.

The Almirante Irizar reached the stranded research vessel Wednesday and pulled alongside the Magdalena Oldendorff for the first time Saturday.

"It is hard to estimate when we will reach open waters," Hector Tavecchia, captain of the icebreaker, told reporters by satellite telephone.

"It depends on various factors, the amount of ice, weather. ... The (research vessel's) engine is fine so we will not need to tow it," he added.

The Magdalena Oldendorff is trapped in 13-foot (4-meter) thick ice, and the skeleton crew that remained after last month's rescue was down to a week's worth of food and fuel. The icebreaker delivered food and fuel Friday.

The Argentine icebreaker steamed out of Buenos Aires harbor on June 25, but a South African vessel airlifted most of the scientists and crew from the stranded ship by helicopter on June 27.

The icebreaker's resupply operations were delayed until Friday by a snow squall and temperatures of minus-40 degrees.

2002 Reuters

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