Icebreaker Snow Dragon Now Stuck in Ice, Six Miles from MV Akademik Shokalskiy

xuelongThe Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, has gotten to within around 6-7 miles of the expedition cruise ship,  MV Akademik Shokalskiy, before it too was stopped by thick ice off the coast of Antarctica, south of Tasmania. Three icebreakers were dispatched to rescue the stricken cruise ship. Unfortunately, the Chinese Snow Dragon is the largest and most powerful of the three and it is stuck in the ice.

A second icebreaker, the French icebreaking research vessel, L’Astrolabe, is close by, but as it is a considerably smaller ship with less horsepower, may not be able to provide much assistance to the Snow Dragon.  The third icebreaker, the Australian Aurora Australisis also on its way to the trapped ships. Unfortunately, while she is more powerful than  L’Astrolabe, Aurora Australis is still less than half the displacement and three quarters the horsepower of the Snow Dragon.

The best answer may be a wind shift. “Right now we are waiting for winds to blow ice away so we can move closer,” Capt. Wang Jiangzhong of the Snow Dragon told CNN. “The current ice condition is exceeding our capabilities to break through further.

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4 Responses to Icebreaker Snow Dragon Now Stuck in Ice, Six Miles from MV Akademik Shokalskiy

  1. It would appear that since an icebreaker as powerful as the MS Xue Long, whose Master seems to be a capable person, is unable to make progress the Master of the MS Akademik Shokalskiy took his ship too far into the coastal ice. It is extremely important in ice navigation to carefully assess the wind forecasts so that one does not become entrapped. The French have clearly assessed that their icebreaker is much too underpowered to be of use in the current conditions and have dropped out. The Australian icebreaker may be able to assist the Chinese icebreaker depending on how experienced the Master is in icebreaking and working with the Chinese Master who should be the On-Scene-Commander (OSC). It may be that the Australians by not sending the AGS Ocean Protector to the ice each season are not training Officers as ice navigators for possible future Command of an icebreaker. This training is highly specialized and quite different from being the Master of a regular vessel. My one season of training as a Watchofficer in an icebreaker was just the tip of the iceberg (hmmm) as regards that training but enough to learn the basic hazards of navigating in ice. It will be interesting to see how this assist/rescue may be accomplished – but first the wind needs to shift to take pressure off the ice.

    Good Watch.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    From the news reports (which are often not reliable) the cruise ship was initially caught in the ice about 2 miles from open water. Within a day the report was that they ship was 10 to 17 miles into the ice, suggesting that the ship had drifted or that the winds had sent more drift ice to block the ship.

    Thanks for your comments, Captain. Always interesting.

  3. Phil says:

    There are a few news updates, I’ll email them.

  4. Indeed the news updates, reports and media data has been pretty bad with no concept of ice navigation or ice breaking. One of the worst was by someone listed as the media outlet’s Science Editor who should have used Google ® first to get the basic knowledge. She made a point of belittling the professional skill of the Chinese icebreaker Master which showed a high level of ignorance and bias which has no place in the Media.

    Good Watch.

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