South Korea rescues Chinese group stranded in Antarctica

China asked for help after its icebreaker, on its way to collect the team, collided with an iceberg.

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China's research icebreaker Xuelong

The Chinese icebreaker Xuelong was meant to pick up a team of workers from Inexpressible Island.Credit: Liu Shiping/Xinhua/Alamy

A South Korean research ship has rescued 24 Chinese workers stranded on an island in Antarctica, the South Korean oceans ministry announced on 24 January.

The Chinese team was constructing the nation’s fifth Antarctic research base, on Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay. The workers became stranded when the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, which was supposed to pick them up, hit an iceberg on 19 January and was forced to turn back to its base on King George Island, according to the South Korean ministry.

The temporary facilities on Inexpressible Island had only enough supplies to last until early February, so the Chinese government requested assistance, the South Korean ministry said.

The icebreaker Araon, which supplies South Korea’s Jang Bogo Station roughly 30 kilometres northeast of Inexpressible Island, was on a research mission in the area. It arrived off the shore of the Chinese base on 23 January and the team was ferried to the ship by helicopter. The Araon will transport the Chinese team to New Zealand by early February.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00299-3

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