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Ship Stuck in Antarctic Ice Blinded by Blizzard

(ABC News) – Passengers aboard a ship stuck in the Antarctic ice are being blinded by a howling blizzard and the only sound outside the ship is the whine of winds at 50 mph — which is considered not such a bad day.

The Russian-operated Akademik Shokalskiy, an ice-strengthened vessel touring the Antarctic as part of a research mission, became stuck in thick ice off the coast of Antarctica on Wednesday. The crew and passengers are waiting for a Chinese ice-breaking ship to come help clear the way so they can continue their journey.

Among the researchers and scientists on board are two journalists who have been writing about the voyage for the Guardian, and said in a blog post today that life aboard the boat has been difficult while they wait.

“On Christmas Eve, a blizzard hit our ship with 50-knot winds – mild for these parts – that made it difficult to stand up straight on the deck. The swirling snow enveloped us in a cloud of blinding white, through which the only information we had about the world outside our immediate vicinity came in the form of the howls and whines of speeding air,”  Alok Jha and Laurence Thompson wrote.

The scientists aboard have continued their research, recording seal sounds beneath the ice, counting bird populations, noting the algae and lichen on ice and rocks nearby, and pointing out penguins, birds and seals that live along the shorelines of Antarctica.

The scientists were on the second leg of a two-part, two-month-long journey around Antarctica in which they retraced the steps of the first expedition to map Antarctica a century ago, led by Sir Douglas Mawson. The trip has been dubbed “The Spirit of Mawson.”

Fifty-seven people spent Christmas Day aboard the ship, including 22 crew members and 35 passengers. Most of those aboard are scientists, thought he group did open the trip to members of the public with prices starting at $8,000 for a bunk.

The passengers have been making YouTube videos showing the harsh conditions on the ship’s deck and Tweeting about their predicament, including what they ate for Christmas.

Because of the difficult nature of the journey, the ship had planned for delays and bad weather, according to the blog.

“We’re in the ice like the explorers of old! All are well and spirits are high. Happy Christmas,” Turney tweeted.

The researchers aboard are mainly from universities in New Zealand and Australia.

Members of the voyage did not immediately respond to ABC News requests for comment today.