Icebreaker trapped during polar rescue

BBC News, Wednesday, 24 July, 2002

An Argentine navy icebreaker has got stuck in ice while trying to rescue a German research vessel trapped in Antarctica. 

The Argentine navy said both ships - the Argentine Almirante Iriziar and the Magdalena Oldendorff research ship - became trapped only days after the icebreaker started forcing a way through the Antarctic ice field with the German vessel following in convoy. 

A statement on the Argentine navy website said: "The harsh weather and ice conditions stopped both ships."

"The pressure of the ice field on the ships' hulls adds to the risk of the mission."

The German ship had left Cape Town on 12 April to supply the Russian Antarctic base of Novolazarevskaya, some 3,000 kilometres south of South Africa, but became trapped in ice four metres thick on its return journey north. 

Only 17 of the Oldendorff's 107 passengers and crew remain on board. 

Most were airlifted from the vessel by helicopters shipped to the site by a South African rescue ship on 1 July.

But the skeleton crew was down to a week's worth of food and fuel before the Argentine icebreaker delivered supplies on Friday. 

The Argentine navy said observation flights were now looking for cracks in other parts of the ice to reach open waters. 

If the icebreaker does not manage to break free before the austral summer arrives in November, there are enough supplies on board the two ships for them to last the winter.