Jan 1, 2014 5:45 PM by AP
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter within hours.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre said early Thursday that weather conditions had improved in the area since Wednesday and rescue operations were likely to commence shortly.
The 74 scientists, tourists and crew are on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve.
The center said the helicopter on board the Chinese-flagged vessel Snow Dragon will be used to rescue 52 scientists and tourists, a dozen at a time. All 22 crew members are expected to stay with their icebound vessel, which is not in danger.