Crews try to rescue fishing boat stuck in Antarctic ice
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Crews from the U.S. and New Zealand were trying Thursday to rescue a damaged fishing boat with 27 people aboard that remains stuck in ice near Antarctica.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the Australian boat Antarctic Chieftain suffered damage to three of its four propellers after getting stuck Wednesday and can no longer maneuver.
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Donnie Brzuska said it has sent the icebreaker Polar Star on a 330 nautical mile mission to free the fishing boat. He said the cutter will need to break through several miles of ice that is 2.7 meters (9 feet) thick as well as enduring high winds and snowfall.
“The considerable geographic distances and extreme environmental conditions make this a complex rescue mission; however, we’re confident in our ability to reach the Antarctic Chieftain,” Capt. Matthew Walker, the commanding officer of the Polar Star, said in a statement.
The Polar Star is scheduled to reach the fishing boat late Friday. The plan is then for a New Zealand fishing vessel to escort or tow the disabled boat to a safe harbor.
Mike Hill, the manager of New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre, said the hull of the 63-meter (207-foot) fishing boat remains undamaged and has some clear water around it, so it’s not getting squeezed by the ice.
He said the crew of the fishing boat are well provisioned and don’t face any immediate danger.
The fishing boat is stuck about 900 nautical miles northeast of McMurdo Sound. It’s licensed to catch Antarctic toothfish, a prized delicacy that’s often marketed in North America as Chilean sea bass.