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Apology As Antarctica Rescue Bill Tops $2.4m

Graham Lloyd, The Australian

THE cost of rescuing 52 scientists, passengers and journalists on a scientific tourism voyage to Antarctica could blow out to $2.4 million and has compromised two years of the official Antarctic work program.

The head of Australia’s Antarctic division, Tony Fleming, said negotiations to recover costs were now underway with insurers for the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy and tour organiser the University of NSW.

After returning to Hobart yesterday, tour leader Chris Turney apologised for any inconvenience the rescue had caused.

The group was eventually air-lifted by a Chinese helicopter to the Aurora Australis after their ship became stuck in pack ice in Commonwealth Bay on Christmas Eve.

Accounts from blogs of the expedition indicated the charter ship became stranded because passengers were too slow to return from a day trip.

Professor Turney said the expedition had not taken unnecessary risks. “It was an extreme event and it caught us,” he said. “We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who’s come out to help us.

“We are terribly sorry for any impact that it might have had on fellow colleagues whose work has been delayed. Any experienced Antarctic scientist knows that’s an inherent risk.”

Dr Fleming said the cost of the rescue to Australia would include fuel, supplies, staff and the charter of the Aurora Australis.

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