A New Zealand scientist stranded on board a ship in Antarctica has reassured family back home that all is well - despite the stricken vessel being barraged by blizzards and stuck in thick pack ice.

Ornithologist Kerry-Jayne Wilson is one of six New Zealanders stuck on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on an expedition led by scientists from the University of New South Wales.

The ship, which left Bluff on December 8, sent a distress signal to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Christmas morning after becoming stuck in pack ice about 3000km southwest of Bluff.

Dr Wilson, from Charleston on the West Coast, told the Herald via satellite phone that the crew had managed to have a "jolly Christmas" on board the Russian-flagged vessel.


"I just want to reassure them [family] that everyone is happy. Everyone is well and the ship is safe and we're in absolutely no danger at all."

Forty-eight passengers and 20 crew are on the ship, which was chartered to follow in the footsteps of Antarctic explorer and scientist Sir Douglas Mawson.

Dr Wilson, chair of the Blue Penguin Trust, said the stoppage might have been a blessing in disguise.

"Frankly, I was a bit pleased to have a day off. If we had been moving yesterday [Christmas Day], I would be up and down the bridge every hour [conducting bird observations].

"Instead, I could relax and enjoy Christmas with the rest of the crew."

The ship was due to return to Bluff early in the New Year, but those plans were "up in the air", Dr Wilson said.

The other New Zealanders on board are University of Auckland doctoral student Colin Tan, historians John and Barbara Tucker, and two chefs.

A Chinese registered ice-breaker - the "Snow Dragon" - was on its way to help and should reach the trapped ship by tomorrow morning at the latest.