Stranded Antarctic Ship Prepares for Helicopter Rescue

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NEW YORK) -- Thick Antarctic ice has blocked a third ice breaker from reaching a stranded cruise ship, prompting officials to change plans and prepare to take the passengers off the ice-bound ship by helicopter.

The decision to resort to an airlift came after Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis could only get within 10 nautical miles of the trapped vessel before the rescue attempt was called off because winds of up to 30 knots and snow showers, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian-crewed research vessel touring the Antarctic, has been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve.

The ship is carrying 74 scientists and tourists. The chopper can only carry 15 people at a time, so it would have to make five trips to evacuate all 52.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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