ANTARCTIC expeditioners rescued by an Australian icebreaker have apologised for an operation that could cost taxpayers up to $2.4 million.
Fifty-two passengers rescued from a Russian ship trapped in sea ice have arrived in Hobart aboard the Australian Antarctic vessel Aurora Australis, nearly three weeks after the emergency began.
“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who’s come out to help us,” leader of the privately funded expedition, Professor Chris Turney, told a media conference in Hobart.
“We are terribly sorry for any impact that it might have had on fellow colleagues whose work has been delayed.
“Any experienced Antarctic scientist knows that’s an inherent risk.”
Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) director Dr Tony Fleming said costs were still being determined but could range from $1.8 million to $2.4 million.
Costs associated with delays to scientific programs, including a major study of ocean acidification scheduled for next year, were harder to pin down, Dr Fleming said.
“The government will be pursuing all avenues to recover costs and minimise the burden to the Australian taxpayer,” he said.
More at The Australian here
Meanwhile Steve McIntyre points out that it is getting harder and harder for them to wiggle out of culpability:
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the University of New South Wales is a signatory to the sub-charter of the Akademik Shokalskiy.
I don’t know how liability for rescue costs is allocated. However, the fact that the University of New South Wales is a party to the sub-charter places its potential liability in a new light. However, in most legal proceedings, plaintiffs look for the party with the deepest pockets, which, in this case, would be the University of New South Wales.
In another story, New Details on the Ship of Fools Steve writes:
The precise chronology of the Ship of Fools on December 23 has been a topic of interest on skeptic blogs, including my recent post demonstrating the falsity of Turney’s excuses. However, up to today, this chronology had received zero media coverage, despite several reporters from major media on the Ship of Fools.
Today, there are two stories (BBC and Sydney Morning Herald , both of which contain damning information (especially the latter.) Note embedded link in latter article h/t Bob Koss, with important details not reported in the main article.
Turney’s defenders have attempted to transfer blame from the expedition to the Russian captain. However, Mortimer (though not Turney) squarely acknowledged that the delays were the “responsibility of the expedition team, not Captain Kiselev.”
It looks as if the press is starting to ask questions:
Antarctic cruise routes face scrutiny
Antarctic authorities want more say over where private expeditions venture after revealing a rescue mission this summer could cost Australian taxpayers $2.4 million.
Permits for a group whose chartered Russian ship became trapped in sea ice last month were issued without considering its proposed course.
SkyNews has video here: http://www.skynews.com.au/topstories/article.aspx?id=944004&vId=4312511&cId=Top%20Stories
UPDATE: This SMH story pretty well nails it. Excerpt:
“Everyone on board was keen to make the journey across the fast ice to the Hodgeman Islands,” said one passenger.
A weather forecast predicted 25-35 knot winds reaching 40 knots late in the day.
“Despite the wind and extreme cold, the scenery on the journey was spectacular – it seemed unreal, as though we were on a movie set,” said the same passenger.
About 2.30pm the weather deteriorated. At the same time Captain Kiselev saw slabs of sea ice moving into the open water channel from which the ship had entered the area. He called for everyone to return.
A passenger standing near Professor Turney overheard the voyage leader, Greg Mortimer, telling him over the radio to bring passengers back to the ship so it can leave.
But minutes later, Professor Turney drove six more passengers into the field.