Scientists on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition remain trapped for a fourth day after a Chinese icebreaker that was en route to rescue the ship failed to push its way through the heavy ice.

The Chinese ship Snow Dragon was just 11 kilometres away from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy on Saturday morning, but the icebreaker was forced to turn back after being stalled in heavy ice.

France’s L’Astrolable icebreaker also called off its rescue mission Saturday after failing to break through the ice around the ship, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

A third icebreaker -- Australia’s Aurora Australis -- which Martin says has the best chance of cutting through the ice is expected to arrive on Sunday.

Expedition leader Chris Turney earlier tweeted an image of the Snow Dragon icebreaker on the horizon approaching the ship, with penguins in the foreground.

“It’s a little frustrating again that we can see hope and help,” Turney told CTV News Channel in Skype interview. “But unfortunately at the moment we’re just in an isolated position still.”


The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left which left New Zealand for Antarctica on Nov. 28, has been stuck since in ice since Christmas morning after blizzard winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour pushed ice around the ship, trapping it south of Hobart, Australia.

The vessel isn’t currently in danger of sinking, and the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board have weeks’ worth of supplies.

“Some of the Australians are complaining about the amount of beer we’ve got left,” Turney said. “But overall I think morale’s pretty good.”

The scientific team had been following the same route Australian explorer Douglas Mawson travelled a century ago. Turney said they plan to continue their expedition once they’re freed.

And despite interruptions, scientists on board the Akademik Shokalskiy have been continuing their research, counting birds in the area and drilling through the ice to observe sea life.