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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ A South African ship carrying helicopters left Sunday for Antarctica to help rescue 107 people aboard a German ship trapped by an ice drift.

It will take the South African ship, the Agulhas, nine days to reach the edge of the ice, where it will meet up with the Argentinian icebreaker Almirante Irizar to try to free the trapped vessel.

``We've looked at a number of different scenarios,'' said Gerald Hagemann, spokesman for the rescue mission's coordinators, Antarctic Logistics Centre International. ``Ideally we hope to be able to cut a path through the ice.''

The Magdalena Oldendorff, the trapped German ship, was carrying 79 Russian scientists and 28 crew members, including two Germans, to Cape Town from the Novolazarevskaya station in northeast Antarctica when it came across the ice drift, according to officials from Antarctic Logistics Center International.

The 18,000-ton vessel headed back toward Antarctica and was waiting along the continent's northern tip, due south of Cape Town, until it either was rescued or the ice moved out of its path.

If the South African and Argentinian ships cannot reach the ship, the helicopters will remove the scientists and nonessential crew members and leave the vessel behind with a skeleton staff and supplies for the winter, Hagemann said.

Morale among the trapped crew and scientists was good, Hagemann said.

``They're cold, but they know that help is on the way,'' he said.