They went in search evidence of the world’s melting ice caps, but instead a team of climate scientists have been forced to abandon their mission … because the Antarctic ice is thicker than usual at this time of year.
The scientists have been stuck aboard the stricken MV Akademik Schokalskiy since Christmas Day, with repeated sea rescue attempts being abandoned as icebreaking ships failed to reach them.
Now that effort has been ditched, with experts admitting the ice is just too thick. Instead the crew have built an icy helipad, with plans afoot to rescue the 74-strong team by helicopter.
The expedition is being lead by Chris Turney, a climate scientist, who was hoping to reach the base camp of Douglas Mawson, one of the most famous Antarctic explorers, and repeat observations done by him in 1912 to see what impact climate change had made.RELATED: The Guardian Slams Funding of Anti-Global Warming Groups
It is thought that the group, which includes scientific researchers and a journalist, will now be able to escape by air after two sea rescues failed.
Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis was unable to reach them because it was not strong enough to break through.
A top-of-the-range Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon ('Xue Long'), was deployed earlier in the week, and hoped to reach the ship by saturday.
However just after midnight on Friday it too got stuck just six nautical miles from the ship.
The Academic Shokalskiy set off from New Zealand on November 28 to recreate a 100-year-old Australasia expedition first sailed by Sir Douglas Mawson to see how the journey changes using new technology and equipment.
But on Wednesday morning, the boat hit a mass of thick ice sheets and today remains at a stand still.