The South African rescue ship, SA Agulhas, came to the aid of the icebound Magdelena Oldendorff, which has been frozen in a bay on the Princess Astrid Coast since June 11, 2002. Oldendorff, a German-owned research vessel, is on charter to Russia and had 107 scientists and crew onboard. The evacuation shuttle has involved a number of helicopter trips between the vessels, which are roughly 190 nm apart.
As the ice thickens, Agulhas will have to pull back from the area to avoid becoming icebound, too. The increased distance between the two vessels will hamper helicopter relief efforts due to the aircraft’s fuel range and unsettled weather in the region. The Argentine icebreaker Almirante Irizar is now on its way to the area to provide additional aid and is expected to arrive by July 7, 2002. When it arrives, rescuers hope that Irizar will be able to break Oldendorff free and clear a route to open water. In the meantime, a minimal crew is maintaining ship’s systems aboard the stricken vessel.