Australia's Antarctic supply ship struggles to break free of icepack

11 January 2002

Polar Bird, Australia's polar supply ship, has been able to make its first tentative moves since becoming stuck in thick pack-ice in Prydz Bay on 16 December.

Small leads have opened up around the ship, which is taking full advantage of them to move forward very slowly at a rate of about 4 km an hour.

Kim Pitt, Australian Antarctic Division's Operations Manager said "This is the most positive sign so far – it gives the ship a good chance of breaking free."

Dr Joe Johnson, Voyage Leader aboard the Polar Bird, said in his latest communication, "Currently, the situation is quite encouraging, but too early for excess optimism."

Aurora Australis, Australia's icebreaker, is now making its way into Prydz Bay where it will attempt to use its icebreaking capabilities to free Polar Bird. Reconnaissance flights by helicopters from the Aurora have detected some very tough ice in a 10 km-wide band between the two ships.

Aurora Australis left the Polar Bird on Monday evening, January 7, to take on the scheduled duties of the trapped ship while waiting for a break in the weather and the ice.