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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Scientists rescued from Antarctic ship
The Agulhas, heading NE, making about 6k at full power through 25cm thick grey-white ice
Agulhas had to sail through kilometres of 25cm thick ice
Rescuers say they have now airlifted all the passengers on board a ship which has been trapped in the Antarctic for over two weeks.

Two South African air force helicopters lifted the last of the 89 passengers stranded on the Magdalena Oldendorff onto a South African vessel, the Agulhas, on Monday.

Click here for a map of the area

The passengers included 79 Russian scientists who were returning from an Antarctic base when thick ice blocked the path of their ship.

The Magdalena has been trapped behind solid ice about 300 kilometres (186 miles) from Queen Maude Land since 14 June.

An Argentine icebreaker is expected to arrive in less than a week to cut a new escape route to free the ship.

Risky mission

The South African rescuers pulled the remaining 18 passengers off the ship during a brief period of good weather and daylight.

The rescue operation had been put on hold over the weekend when a cyclone forced the Agulhas rescue ship to move north into thinner ice, 526 kilometres (325 miles) away from the Magdalena and out of safe flying distance.

11 Russian scientists disembarking from an Oryx helicopter on the landing deck of the S A Agulhas  - 27 June
The Russian scientists have been brought back in groups of 10
Flying conditions can be hazardous in the polar winter, with only five to six hours of daylight and freezing air temperatures - reaching -14.7C on Monday.

The Magdalena had been heading back to Cape Town when a massive ice drift blocked its way, forcing it to retreat into the Bay of Muskegbutka and call for help.

The ship is relatively safe from floating ice and moving icebergs, as it is protected in the bay.

Essential crew members, living on supplies brought by the helicopters, will remain on board the Magdalena until the arrival of the Argentine icebreaker Almirante Irizar.

The icebreaker is expected to reach the ship on 7 July, and should be able to carve a path through the ice, allowing the Magdalena to follow behind.


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20 Jun 02 | Europe
16 Jun 02 | Europe
14 Jun 02 | Europe
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