Antarctic Rescue Attempt by Third Ship Beaten Back by Foul Weather

Good Morning America

The latest attempt to rescue tourists and scientists aboard a research ship trapped in miles of Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve was called off due to harsh weather conditions.

An Australian icebreaker ship, Aurora Australis, made it within 10 nautical miles of the trapped vessel today before the rescue attempt was called off because winds of up to 30 knots and snow showers, according to a press release from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

"These weather conditions have resulted in poor visibility and made it difficult and unsafe for the Aurora Australis to continue today's attempt to assist the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. Further attempts may be made by the vessel in due course to undertake the rescue once weather conditions improve," AMSA said in the release.

The Russian-operated Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, got stuck last Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship is carrying 74 scientists and tourists.

The latest rescue attempt follows previous attempts by a Chinese icebreaking vessel, the Snow Dragon, and a French icebreaker, the Astrolabe.

"As soon as the weather clears, they'll have another go. We just have no idea what the weather will do," expedition leader Chris Turney told ABC News via Skype. "We're hoping that maybe tomorrow or the day after they'll be able to have a crack at getting to us."

The Aurora Australis is better equipped to break through the ice than the two previous rescue ships, but with reports of ice as thick as 13 feet, it's still going to be a tough task.

"What we aim to do is to see if we can break them out," Capt. Murray Doyle said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. "It depends how much is pressure up and… our ability to get through it."

Despite being stuck for nearly a week in frigid temperatures, Turney says loved ones at home should not be worried.

"We've got about 10 days or so of fresh food and then we're on to dehydrated rations, but we've also got the Aurora a helicopter ride away, so if it really got bad they could drop us supplies as well," Turney told ABC News.

If no icebreaker ship can pull off the rescue, the backup plan would be to evacuate everyone aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy via helicopter. The chopper can only carry 15 at a time, so it would have to make five trips to evacuate everyone from the trapped vessel.