KENT NARROWS, Md. (WJZ) — Rescue plans are underway to airlift the stranded passengers on board a research ship trapped in the Antarctic ice. They’ve been there for a week.

As Derek Valcourt explains, even ice breaker ships like the kinds used in the Chesapeake Bay can’t get to them.

Normally, ice breaker ships can help in some of these situations, but as the folks who operate ice breaker ships in the Chesapeake Bay know, some ice is just too tough.

When frigid temperatures turn places like Kent Narrows into a sheet of ice, ice breaker ships like the A.V. Sandusky spring into action. Seven-hundred horsepower engines and 120 tons of steel plow through to clear marinas and open channels. And sometimes, that’s a challenge.

“So even if there’s only a little bit of ice, the more it piles up, the thicker it gets.”

And that’s the same problem facing ice breakers trying to reach the stranded research ship in Antarctica. So far, three much larger ships than those used in the Chesapeake have failed.

“Just as in the bay, the ice can get pushed into tight areas, and it will reef onto itself, and there’s just not the capability once ice gets too thick. You cannot push through it, you have to wait until the weather allows you to,” said John Gallagher, Maryland DNR.

And with the Antarctic weather not expected to turn for awhile, the stranded passengers are now preparing for rescue by air.

“The band is preparing the helipad by getting the team to stomp down on the snow and ice so the Chinese helicopters from Snow Dragon can reach us,” one of the stranded passengers said.

The passengers on the ship will take the helicopters to safety. The crew will stay behind with the ship and wait for the ice to break up naturally.

That helicopter rescue is expected to happen within days and the crew on board isn’t worried. They have more than 10 days worth of supplies on board and they know a helicopter can drop more if needed.

The chopper can only carry 15 people at a time, so they would have to make several trips to evacuate all 52 non-crew members.

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