Coast Guard Icebreaker Heads for Antarctica to Free Two Ships

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, seen here in 1999, has been sent to help free Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which are gripped by Antarctic ice. U.S. Coast Guard Handout Photo/Reuters /Landov

A newly refurbished Coast Guard icebreaker is en route to Antarctica to free two vessels stuck in ice.

The stuck ships are a Russian research vessel and a Chinese icebreaker, according to Allyson Conroy, the Coast Guard’s chief warrant officer for the Pacific Area. The Russian ship has been stranded since before Christmas. The Chinese vessel got stuck when it tried to help.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is being sent to the scene, he said. The heavy-duty icebreaker just finished undergoing a three-year, $90 million dollar overhaul.

The Polar Star set out from Sydney on Saturday.

Conroy said the Chinese ship’s helicopter has evacuated the passengers from the Russian ship, but the vessels’ crews are still on board.

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