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Saturday, 5 January, 2002, 01:02 GMT
Ice turns back Shackleton ship
Ice closed in on the research ship
By Christine McGourty, BBC science correspondent, in Antarctica

The British Antarctic Survey (Bas) ship, the Ernest Shackleton, has been forced to turn back from Antarctica after being blocked by ice.

The vessel has abandoned its journey in the Weddell Sea - where the legendary explorer's own ship was crushed 87 years ago.

The ship was heading for the remote British base at Halley but has been forced to re-route to the Falkland Islands for more fuel.

There was no way they were going to run out of fuel

John Hall, British Antarctic Survey
The ships of the British Antarctic Survey make regular trips to and from Antarctica to take scientists and supplies to the continent.

The Ernest Shackleton set off from Grimsby in the UK in October. But just 200 miles (320 kilometres) from its final destination at Halley, the ice blocked its path.

The ship sat for more than two weeks in the ice in the Weddell Sea, where Shackleton got stuck in 1915.

The 48 passengers and 12 crew were forced to spend Christmas there, drifting with the wind in a giant ice floe - with just penguins, seals and whales for company.

Now, with no sign of the ice loosening, the ship has been forced to turn back.

Coming home

The vessel is due to arrive at the island of South Georgia this weekend and will then head to the Falkland Islands to refuel before trying to reach Antarctica again in a few weeks' time.

The crew of Sir Ernest Shackleton pull a boat across ice
The legendary explorer's crew was forced to abandon ship
The Bas has played down the problem. "It isn't very dramatic," said the survey's John Hall.

"It's not uncommon to have to wait in the ice for the weather to change. They had 30 to 35 days of fuel left, so there was no way they were going to run out of fuel."

But he said as there was no sign of the wind changing in their favour, it made sense to go back to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Four of the passengers on board will return from there to Britain, without having reached their final destination, he added.

Some others will be flown into Halley instead, via the Bas research base at Rothera. The remaining crew are expected to get into Halley in a few weeks' time.

Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, froze into the ice and sank, forcing the crew on an 800 mile (1,300 km) journey across ice floes and stormy seas to South Georgia.

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