An Australian fishing vessel that was stranded in Antarctic ice for a week with a damaged propeller is expected to make its way to New Zealand under its own power.The 63-metre Antarctic Chieftain longliner damaged its propeller after hitting an iceberg and was stranded about 1,500 kilometres north-east of McMurdo Sound with 26 people on board.
The US icebreaker Polar Star reached the Antarctic Chieftain early Saturday morning after breaking through the ice around it.
It is currently travelling under its own power with the icebreaker as a safeguard, and will be accompanied by another ship as it limps to New Zealand for repairs.
Les Scott, from the company that operates the ship, says the damage to the propeller meant the ship could never have forced its way out without assistance.
But we were always hopeful that once Polar Star had come in and cut a track and got us through the heavy ice then we had a reasonable opportunity to get home under our own steam, he said.
Scott said Antarctic Chieftain had been making its way through light ice since Sunday evening, following Polar Star. The ships are expected to reach open water soon.
The Antarctic Chieftain will then meet the New Zealand fishing vessel Janus.
Then we'll do an assessment and we're fairly confident at this point in time that it will be able to make its own way home under its own power but we'll keep Janus in close proximity, Mr Scott said.
The Antarctic Chieftain will sail over the next fortnight to Nelson in New Zealand for propeller repairs. Mr Scott said morale on Antarctic Chieftain remained high.
I really would like to thank US Search and Rescue for the Polar Star coming so quickly and ably to our assistance, he said, adding that I'd also like to thank Search and Rescue Australia New Zealand for the coordination of all this.