Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brit Tourists Stranded in Antarctica Finally Break Free of the Ice

British tourists trapped in ice at Antarctic penguin colony are finally on the move

By Tim Clark
18th November 2009

More than 50 UK tourists stranded on a cruise ship in the Antarctic are finally on the move again after being wedged in sea ice since Friday.

The Russian cruise ship the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a converted icebreaker, was on a voyage to visit a colony of Emperor penguins near Antarctica’s Snow Hill Island, located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, when it became trapped in an area known as the Weddel Sea late last week.

105 tourists - including 51 Britons - were on a two-week expedition to the Antarctic to see a colony of Emperor penguins.

The trip, which can cost in excess of £10,000, is visited by a handful of expeditions each year.

Tour leader Paul Goldstein, of holiday firm Exodus told BBC news: ‘We're currently mobile, we're breaking through some ice, and due to some frankly unprecedented winds and visibility problems and snow, we're a little delayed.

‘These situations do happen when you do this style of holiday. There are not stringent day-to-day itineraries. That's not how we work, and that's what people buy in to.’

During the winter (from May to July) the Antarctic continent doubles in size as an estimated 6.9 million square miles of ocean is covered by sea ice – making the overall frozen landmass even larger than Russia.

The ice takes months to melt back as the summer sun shines once again on the polar continent.

The penguin colony, which was only discovered in 2005, sits near the edge of the ice shelf.

To reach it, visitors have to first fly to the Argentinian city of Ushuaia at the tip of South America before boarding the Kapitan Khlebnikov, which then takes a further four days to reach the colony at Snow Hill.

Although Argentinian rescue authorities were notified of the predicament, the ship was not thought to be in any danger.

The captain of the Kapitan Khlebnikov said that the tourists used the unplanned stop to take a tour of the surrounding area.

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