January 1, 2014
In the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, three dozen passengers from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy walked town the gangplank and stepped on to one of the ice floes that had trapped the ship since Christmas Day.
They walked, carefully, along a pathway marked by small flags until they reached a relatively flat area of the ice covered in fresh snow. They formed a chain at one side, linked arms and proceeded to stomp, in formation, across the snow, compressing the powder under their feet. This is how you make a helipad in Antarctica.
Minutes before, we had been told that the Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis, had failed to get through. This was the second icebreaker that hadn’t made it – the Chinese ship, the Xue Long, got some of the way through the ice on Friday last week before turning back. The only option left is to evacuate by helicopter.