Australian ship with 68 researchers aboard stranded off Antarctica

auroraIt’s bad enough being stuck in a blizzard. It’s worse when you’re on a ship that has run aground. But it’s a whole new level of distress when that ship is stuck during a blizzard in one of the world’s most remote locations, Antarctica.

Two years after coming to the rescue of dozens similarly stranded on a Chinese ship off Antarctica, the Aurora Australis has found itself in rough, icy waters in the same general region.

The good news Thursday is that all 68 expeditioners and crew aboard the grounded icebreaker ship are “safe and well,” according to the Australian Antarctic Division, a government agency that conducts Antarctic research. Even better, there’s a plan in the works to help them.

The Aurora Australis was resupplying at Mawson station — one of the research centers on the icy, expansive continent that’s home to the South Pole — when it “broke free of its mooring lines” during a blizzard Wednesday morning, the Australian government said. The vessel then ran aground at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbor.

The episode occurred at the tail end of summer in Antarctica, though that doesn’t mean anyone in their right mind would be lounging beachside in their bathing suits. To the contrary, high temperatures maxed out Thursday at 22.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-5.2 Celsius), though wind chills were appreciably lower.

The cold wasn’t so much a problem as were snow and winds, steady at 80 mph (130 kph) and gusting up to 112.5 mph, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.