UPDATE: Turns out this “research” vessel was mostly a taxpayer funded junket for getting video stories to BBC in the UK and ABC in Australia, see update2 below.
It is summer in the southern hemisphere and yet there is still signifiicantly above normal amounts of sea ice present as the passengers and crew of one tour ship discovered. The icebreakers Xue Long and Aurora Australis, and a French research vessel Astrolabe are cruising towards the Akademik Shokalskiy at full throttle for rescue. Photos and maps follow.
PR from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Dec 25th, 2013:
Search and rescue of passenger vessel trapped in ice underway
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating a search and rescue for a Russian passenger ship beset by ice approximately 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart.
AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia) was contacted by the Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in the United Kingdom on Christmas morning.
The Falmouth MRCC received a distress message via satellite from a Russian flagged vessel, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, with 74 people about 7.20am (AEDT).
The ship is in the Australian Search and Rescue region, 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D’Urville.
RCC Australia assumed coordination of the incident and issued a broadcast to icebreaking vessels in the area.
Three ships with icebreaking capability have responded, including the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) vessel Aurora Australis, and are now en route to the area.
The closest vessels are at least two days sailing time away.
Further updates will be provided when more information is available.
This is apparently an image tweeted by somebody on-board the Akademik Shokalskiy, showing the ice around it:
— AMSA News (@AMSA_News) December 25, 2013
The expedition is being led by Chris Turney, “climate scientist”, who has “set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.” The purpose of the expedition is “to discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.”
http://www.christurney.com/ (h/t to Sagebrush Gardener)
It seems they found out what the “environmental changes taking place in the south.” are.
From the WUWT sea ice page, Antarctic Sea Ice is more than 2 standard deviations above normal:
This is what the current sea ice coverage looks like at the south pole with the approximate ship location marked:
Image source: National Snow and Ice Data Center via the WUWT sea ice page.
Wikipedia says about the ship:
MV Akademik Shokalskiy (Russian: Академик Шокальский) is an Akademik Shuleykin-class ice-strengthened ship, built in Finland in 1982 and originally used for oceanographic research. In 1998 it was fully refurbished to serve as a research ship for Arctic and Antarctic work. It was named after the Russian oceanographer Yuly Shokalsky. The ship has two  passenger decks, with dining rooms, a bar, a library, and a sauna, and accommodates 54 passengers. It is currently operated by Aurora Expeditions, an Australian expedition cruise line. In 2011, the Akademik Shokalskiy sailed cruises along the coast of Russia and to East Antarctica. Her sister ships are Akademik Shuleykin, Arnold Veymer, Akademik Gamburtsev, Professor Molchanov, Professor Multanovskiy, Geolog Dmitriy Nalivkin, Professor Polshkov, Professor Khromov.
WUWT reader “pat” writes at 2013/12/26 at 1:59 pm
seems this expedition was more a BBC/Guardian/ABC CAGW exercise!
18 Dec: Guardian: The Guardian lays claim to Antarctica – in pictures Journalists Alok Jha and Laurence Topham have landed in Antarctica with the 2013 Australasian Antarctic Expedition Documentary filmmaker Laurence Topham lines up a shot from the bows. Photograph: Alok Jha/Guardian…
Guardian: Laurence Topham, documentary filmmaker
In 2007 he worked for Current TV, where he edited over 50 short-form documentaries for terrestrial broadcast…
Guardian: Science: Antarctica live (MASSIVE COVERAGE, NO HINT ABOUT THE SHIP’S CURRENT PREDICAMENT!)
26 Dec: BBC: Andrew Luck-Baker: Science continues for trapped Australasian Antarctic expedition Science reporter Andrew Luck-Baker is on board the Russian research vessel Shokalskiy, covering the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 for the BBC World Service programme Discovery…
Tantalisingly, a low band of grey sky to the Northeast suggests clear water lies not so many kilometres away. The grey colour is light reflected from open water. The early Antarctic explorers named this colour phenomenon “water sky” and used it to navigate their route through the treacherous pack ice…
In addition to the Russian crew of 22, the expedition team consists of 18 professional scientists from Australia and New Zealand, and 22 volunteer science assistants. They are members of the public, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. They paid to join the scientific adventure…
25 Nov: ABC Lateline: $1.5 million Australian expedition to Antarctica Professor Chris Turney from the University of NSW is mounting the largest Australian science expeditions to the Antarctic with an 85-person team to try to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might be already shifting weather patterns in Australia.
ABC’s MARGOT O’NEILL: The research stakes are high. Antarctica is one of the great engines driving the world’s oceans, winds and weather, especially in Australia. But there’s ominous signs of climate change.
CHRIS TURNEY: The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds encircle Antarctica, and over the last 20 or 30 years or so, they’ve been pushing further south. Now – so actually in a way it’s almost like Antarctica’s withdrawing itself from the rest of the world…
EMMA ALBERICI: And tomorrow night, in the second part of this special report, could the British Antarctic explorer Robert Scott have lived? We look at how Professor Turney discovered that choosing the right team can be a matter of life and death.