Missing Russian ship crew found alive in Antarctic ice

A Russian-Ukrainian sailing crew that went missing on a historic expedition around the South Pole is alive and made contact Saturday as it battled through Antarctic ice with its fuel running low.

The ambitious eight-strong team on the Scorpios yacht did not make contact earlier this week as gale-force winds slowed its progress. But the captain said in an email that the crew was in good health, the expedition’s spokeswoman Anna Subbotina said.

“They contacted us with an email last night. The ice conditions were very severe, and currently they are going toward the mainland because they are running out of fuel and other supplies,” she told AFP.

The 29-metre (97 foot) yacht was cut off from communication for several days after water damaged its satellite antennae during a storm on the way to Deception Island.

Currently the crew has fuel for only two-and-a-half days, and has decided to sail towards the Chilean mainland by circumventing the South Shetlands.

“They are forcing their way through the ice, travelling very slowly,” she said.

But the team appears to be in good spirits and nobody has been hurt, she added. “They are not asking for help,” she said.

The Scorpios — a sleek white steel yacht built in 1991 in the Netherlands left on its 130,000 kilometer voyage hoping to set a number of sailing records and restoring Russia’s pride on the seas.

It hoped to become the first yacht to circle both the South and North Poles in the same year — only a part of a mission that intends to stay at sea for a record 20 months.

The Scorpios set sail from Russia’s Black Sea port city of Sochi on September 18 before passing the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa in November and then dipping below the southern bend of Argentina.

The team’s crew comprises four Russians and four Ukrainians at this stage of the journey.