Russian Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese Xue Long ships broke free from the Antarctic ice. The shifting winds loosened the ice packs and helped the vessels to free themselves. Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck in the ice for many days and while Xue Long was trying to help also stuck in the ice.
Akademik Shokalskiy is now moving through the ice and soon is expected to reach open waters according to Russian news agencies. The Chinese icebreaker participated in the rescuing of the passengers from the Russian ship, but also was unable to move out of the thick ice floe for 4 days. Now the vessel is in open waters and is far from the thick Antarctica ice.
Three governments (Australia, Russia and China) asked for help from the U.S. icebreaker Polar Star that is now heading to the area 1,500 miles south of Australia. Apparently, the trapped vessels will not require assistance and Polar Star will continue with its mission to a U.S. Antarctic base.
The saga with the stranded vessels started in December, near the South Pole, when Akademik Shokalskiy while being on exploration mission stuck in thick Antarctica ice. After days of waiting, the help came from the nearby Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon). 52 scientists, journalists and tourists were transported in groups from the trapped Russian ship with a Xue Long helicopter. Small crew group had to stay on the ship in any case. The rescued passengers were sent to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which will return home.
The situation has drawn the world's attention for the past days, because of the journalists who were initially aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy. Chinese media provided materials of the voyage of Xue Long because it was the nation's 30th Antarctic expedition. The Chinese icebreaker have 101 passengers aboard and despite the intense situation no one was in danger. The media coverage showed that passengers were playing pin pong, practising boxing and were using technical equipment to measure weather and ice formations.