The Australian research icebreaker Aurora Australis departed Casey station today to go to the help of the Antarctic supply ship Polar Bird, stranded in the pack ice of Prydz Bay nearly 5000km southwest of Hobart.

Aurora, which is currently three days ahead of its regular schedule, will take about six days to complete the 1500km journey west along the Antarctic coast, but a rendezvous with Polar Bird will take at least a few days longer because of the thickness of the surrounding ice.

Polar Bird, an ice-strengthened cargo ship chartered from its Norwegian owners to resupply Australian stations, was putting supplies ashore for an Australian field camp on the Amery Ice Shelf when it became trapped by heavy pack ice earlier this month.

In the absence of any indication of the weather changes needed to break the ice up, Aurora has been directed to go to its assistance instead of returning directly to Hobart.