The South African oceanographic ship S.A.Agulas is speeding across the stormy ocean to help out Russian antarctic explorers, whose ship, Magdalena Oldendorf, got stuck amidst pack ice 400 kilometres north of the Russian antarctic station Novolazarevskaya. On board the Magdalena are 79 Russian explorers, all of them returning home from an expedition to the Antarctic Continent, and 36 crew.
According to the Capetown-based Antarctic Logistics Center, from which the Agulas departed on June 16th at 18:00 Moscow time, wind speed in the ocean reaches 30 mpsec; waves reach 6-9 meters high. The ship has picked up a speed of 8 knots, which is approximately half of its maximal speed.
On board the Agulas are two South African army helicopters of the Oryx type, a Russian pilot, and the ice scout Andrei Masanov. As soon as the Agulas reaches the border of the ice zone, Masanov will board a helicopter to search for the easiest way to approach the Magdalena.
According to the information of Vasily Kalyazin of the Antarctic Center, the Agulas will probably start making its way towards the Magdalena without waiting for the Argentine military icebreaker Almirante Irizar /the latter was supposed to set out on June 19th, but its departure was postponed for an indefinite period/. What the Agulas will try to do is approach the German ship as close as possible, so that the helicopters could evacuate the Russian explorers and supply those who remain on board with food.
The ice-bound Magdalena Oldendorf was originally named Nizhneyansk. Before landing into the hands of its present owners, it belonged to the Russian company Sevmorput and was used to run along a sea route across the Antarctic Ocean. On this particular occasion, it was freighted to fetch Russian antarctic explorers just because the research and expedition vessel Akademik Korolyov, which was normally used for this purpose, happened to be in repair.