Ship that ran aground off Antarctica freed, researchers safe

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An icebreaker carrying researchers that ran aground off the coast of Antarctica was freed by crew Saturday and was afloat again, the Australian government said.

Some 37 researchers on board the Aurora Australis were taken safely ashore on Friday via a barge. The ship's crew stayed behind and used a combination of internal ballast transfers and work boats during a rising tide to refloat the ship, the Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement online.

The icebreaker got stranded after it broke its mooring lines during a blizzard Wednesday and ran aground on rocks in Horseshoe Harbor.

The ship was in the vicinity of Mawson research station, where crew will inspect the ship for damage. There was no sign of oil pollution, the statement said.

The Australian Antarctic Division said it was consulting with other national Antarctic programs to figure out a way to transport the researchers back to Australia.

On Friday, a spokesman for the U.S. National Science Foundation told the Times Union of Albany that a ski-equipped cargo plane from the 109th Airlift Wing would fly 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) across Antarctica to retrieve the researchers if weather permits.