More than 100 years ago, Australian geologist Douglas Mawson and his buddy Xavier Mertz made their way across a frozen continent in the Southern Ocean during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911. They ran out of food and ate their sledging dogs. Mertz died and several crevasse falls later, Mawson returned to Cape Denison in 1913. Upon his arrival the first rescuer reportedly said "My God, which one are you?"
Earlier this month, a the Russian-made vessel, the MV Akademic Shokalskiy, set out to recreate Mawson’s journey to build a picture of how this part of the world has changed in the past 100 years. And now they’re stuck.
The group of 68 passengers and crew members made up of scientists and paying citizens, have been trapped in the ice since Christmas Day in the ice floes of Cape de la Motte just a few miles off the coast of Antarctica.
But help is on the way. As of Thursday evening, the Shokalskiy was 1,500 nautical miles from Hobart, Tasmania, awaiting the arrival of the Chinese icebreaker ship the Xue Long, which translates to “Snow Dragon” to free the team from the ice. Help should arrive Friday morning, the Guardian reports. False reports indicated that the crew was in danger of being hit by icebergs, but the only two bergs close enough are a mile away and remain stationary.
The Guardian's science correspondent, Alok Jha, on board the Shokalskiy has been writing a daily blog that has us rest assured. "As winter scenes go, you could do worse,” he wrote.
And they're taking this opportune moment to do some research. Marine ecologists are recording seal sounds. Ornithologists are counting birds.
“We're making the best possible use of our unscheduled stop to take extra measurements in the area and build on our scientific work programme," Climate scientist Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales, who is leading the expedition, told the Guardian. “We've had a fantastic Christmas and the science programme has been continuing while we're stuck in position. The results looking really exciting."
No reports on whether the crew has eaten any dogs yet.