Reports that a Chinese icebreaker assisting in the rescue of a stranded research vessel has itself become stranded in thick Antarctic sea ice has been dispelled by the organisation coordinating the rescue.

A BBC reporter onboard the stranded Akademik Shokalskiy yesterday said the Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long, had barely moved in a day and had become stuck in the ice.

However Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Lisa Martin said today that the latest information they had from the Chinese icebreaker was that its was still manoeuvring through the sea ice in the area.

"We haven't got any indication that they're stuck.''


Expedition passengers on board the Akademik Shokalskiy are set to be rescued by a helicopter on board the Xue Long when the weather improves.

The conditions were still too rough, Ms Martin said. ``It is supposed to ease a little this afternoon, but probably not enough for the rescue to happen.''

Seventy-four people, including six New Zealanders, have been marooned on the Akademik Shokalskiy, 3000km southwest of Bluff, since it became wedged in thick ice on Christmas day.

The Russian research vessel set out from Bluff on December 8. Six New Zealanders are on board, including ornithologist Kerry-Jayne Wilson, University of Auckland doctoral student Colin Tan, historians John and Barbara Tucker, and two chefs.

The Akademik Shokalskiy was retracing Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911 Antarctic expedition when it became trapped. The expedition is being led by scientists from the University of New South Wales.