The hapless Australasian Antarctic Expedition is finally homeward bound - and thousands of trees will have to be planted to offset the carbon footprint from the prolonged rescue effort, according to climate change sceptic Rodney Hide.
The Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy became stuck in thick pack ice some 3000km southwest of Bluff on Christmas Eve.
The 52 passengers, including six New Zealanders, spent eight days trapped before a helicopter from the Chinese ship Xue Long transferred them to Australian vessel Aurora Australis, which will take them to Hobart.
Yesterday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the Xue Long's attempt to manoeuvre through the ice had been unsuccessful and it was now also beset by ice.
The expedition had pledged to plant about 800 kauri trees in Northland to cover its carbon footprint. Environmentalists believe planting trees helps to offset the impact of burning fuels such as diesel.
But former Act Party leader and Herald on Sunday columnist Mr Hide said that would have to increase to about 5000 trees to make up for the fossil fuels burned in the rescue.
Mr Hide said he had come to that figure using online carbon calculators, but admitted he'd had to make some assumptions.
Expedition leader Chris Turney said more trees would be needed than earlier estimated but he was yet to work out how many.
Meanwhile, expedition members were "in fine spirits'', and the crews still on the Akademik Shokalskiy and the Xue Long were confident they would break free of the pack ice. The scientific team had been recreating the 1911-to-1913 voyage of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson to Antarctica.
In an interview with AFP yesterday director of the French Polar Institute Yves Frenot criticised the "pseudo-scientific expedition''.
Because it had run into difficulties, it had drained resources from the French, Chinese and Australian scientific missions in Antarctica, he said.