A U.S. military unit on its annual mission to the South Pole is being called on to assist Australian researchers who got stranded when their ship ran aground off Antarctica.

A spokesman for the U.S. National Science Foundation tells the Times Union of Albany (bit.ly/1pcLvtv) that a ski-equipped cargo plane from the 109th Airlift Wing, a New York-based Air National Guard unit, will help. The plane will fly 1,400 miles across Antarctica to extricate about three dozen researchers Friday, weather permitting.

The Australian Antarctic Division says the icebreaker Aurora Australis ran onto rocks in a harbor during a snowstorm Wednesday. The researchers disembarked safely but 68 crew members remain on board as efforts continue to refloat the icebreaker.

The 109th is based in Scotia, New York. It flies annually to the South Pole to support the U.S. science agency's operations.

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Information from: Times Union, http://www.timesunion.com