- Polar expedition ship with 74 aboard sends a Christmas distress signal
- Three icebreakers are heading for the trapped vessel
- The ship is stuck near Antarctica, 1,500 nautical miles south of Tasmania
- The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is coordinating the rescue
Passengers on a Russian polar expedition ship off Antarctica are getting a whiter Christmas than they probably wanted.
The MV Akademik Shokalskiy, with 74 people aboard, got trapped in ice and is waiting for other ships with ice-breaking capabilities to reach it, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Wednesday.
A British rescue coordination center received a satellite distress signal on Christmas morning from the Russian-flagged ship and contacted the Australian authority, which handles the Southern Ocean region where the vessel was stuck, an AMSA statement said.
It pinpointed the trapped ship's location as 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.
Three icebreakers were headed to help the Russian vessel, the AMSA statement said, adding that none were expected to reach it before Friday.
Expeditions Online, a polar booking agent for the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said on its website that the ship got stuck "part way through her Australasian Antarctic Expedition towards Mawson's Hut at Cape Denison."
"According to reports, nobody is in present danger and three nearby icebreakers are being sent to assist," the Expeditions Online website said.
It described the ship as "a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel" for working in polar regions.
"This class of vessel is world-renowned for polar exploration, because of its strength, maneuverability and small passenger numbers," the company's website said.