When last we left our heroes, they had successfully evacuated 52 global warming scientists from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian ice breaker that was stranded by ice for 10 days. A Chinese ship, the Xue Long, used a helicopter to ferry the scientists — who still insist the Antarctic ice is melting due to global warming — to an Australian ice breaker that is now on the way back home.
But rather than get the girl and live happily ever after, the Chinese ice breaker itself has now become trapped by sea ice.
The Chinese ice-breaker that helped rescue passengers stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy vessel in Antarctica may now itself be stuck.
An Australian ice-breaker carrying the rescued passengers has been placed on standby in case the Chinese ship, Xue Long, needs assistance.
On Thursday, a helicopter from Xue Long transferred 52 passengers from the Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis.
The Shokalskiy has been trapped by thick floes of ice since 24 December.
“Xue Long notified Amsa [the Australian Maritime Safety Authority]… this afternoon [that] it has concerns about their ability to move through heavy ice in the area,” Amsa said in a statement.
“[Xue Long] will attempt to manoeuvre through the ice when tidal conditions are most suitable during the early hours of 4 January,” Amsa said, adding that there was no immediate danger to the crew on the Xue Long.
The Australian Aurora Australis has been asked to remain in open water nearby as a precautionary measure.
BBC reporter Andrew Luck-Baker is on board the Australian ship: “The irony of the situation is that the Xue Long was originally summoned to break a clear route through the pack ice to the smaller Russian vessel. That was not possible and the large icebreaker is now trapped itself.
“As a precautionary measure, the Australian icebreaker has been put on standby to assist the Xue Long, if needs be. All the vessels involved in this drama are within a sea area of East Antarctica that is claimed by Australia. Hence, the coordinating role lies with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.”
As a political joke, the idea of global warming scientists out to prove the shrinking Antarctic ice sheet becoming trapped is mildly amusing. But as a matter of science, looking at an infinitesimally small part of the ice sheet and basing any conclusions on how thick the ice is at that small section at a given point during a given time of the year is silly. The Antarctic ice sheet covers 4.5 million square miles and the local concentration of ice that covers a few dozen or even hundreds of miles is certainly not indicative of whether the entire ice sheet is growing, shrinking, or remaining constant.
That said, there doesn’t seem to be a good explanation for why part of the Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking and other parts are growing. The explanation for both cannot be global warming so there is obviously some dynamic about ice masses at work of which we are still in dark.
I don’t know whether the rescued scientists were interested in studying the problem with an open mind or whether they had braved the ice in order to advance a cause. We should rejoice that they are safe while, at the same time, allowing ourselves a chuckle at the superficial irony of seeing global warming scientists hoisted on their own petard, so to speak.