US Coast Guard ice-breaker called in for Antarctic rescue

A UNITED States Coast Guard ice-breaker was the latest vessel dispatched to help rescue two vessels trapped in ice in Antarctica on Sunday.

The Polar Star ice-breaker was already en route to Antarctica on a separate mission to clear a navigable shipping channel for future research vessels.

But after a request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Sunday, the US Coast Guard confirmed it would send the ship to help.

The Russian vessels MV Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long have been stuck in ice in Commonwealth Bay since Christmas Eve.

Scientists, tourists and others on board the vessel, and the Australian ship RCC Australia were evacuated late last week, but the ships remained trapped.

The Polar Star left Sydney on Sunday to head south, with the trip expected to take up to a week before it will be on hand to help the recovery operation.

Official requests from AMSA, through the RCC Australia, were sent on Saturday, with the US Coastguard confirming it would help on Sunday.

Reports on Saturday had indicated the rescue mission, led by Australian authorities, has already cost upwards of $400,000 - a figure expected to increase over coming days.

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