A US Air Force plane air-dropped vital engine parts yesterday to a disabled British fishing trawler caught in pack ice for the past two weeks in the Ross Sea off Antarctica's northern coast.
The trawler Argos Georgia suffered engine failure on Dec. 23, leaving the disabled ship and its 25 crew members surrounded by pack ice.
A US C-17 Loadmaster dropped an engine piston and casing from approximately 120m above the Ross Sea ice early yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Jim McGann, New Zealand-based commander of the US Antarctic base supply group Deep Freeze, said.
The US flight crew dropped the parts just after midnight while traveling at an airspeed of 220km an hour.
The area has 24-hour daylight at the height of the Southern Hemisphere summer.
Engine repairs were expected to take 12 hours and should enable the trawler to sail back to the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch, McGann said.
The overnight air drop came after two unsuccessful attempts to drop the parts to the vessel.
McGann told New Zealand's National Radio that ocean currents were moving the trawler deep into pack ice toward the Antarctic coast and the vessel would have become trapped if she had remained disabled for much longer.
The C-17 Globemaster III flew out of Christchurch with the 68kg of parts at the request of the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center, which said the Argos Georgia was frozen in the ice floes off the Ross Ice Shelf.
New Zealand is responsible for coordinating rescue and marine safety missions in the Ross Sea.
The 36m vessel had been chartered for long-lining for Patagonian toothfish. It is registered in St. Helena in the South Atlantic, and owned by the Argos Group, based in the Falklands.
Argos Oceanic of Bermuda chartered the vessel after the Argos Georgia fishing company recently joined two New Zealand fishing companies, Sanford and New Zealand Long Line, in applying for assessment of the Antarctic toothfish long-line fishery in the Ross Sea.