Nightly News   |  December 27, 2013

With cyclone on the horizon, rescue ice-breaker ship stalls

Scientists and passengers aboard a trapped research ship were hoping to be rescued by a Chinese ice-breaking ship, however, the journey proved too treacherous for the Snow Dragon. NBC’s Martin Fletcher reports.

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>>> update on the rescue mission to help a research ship trapped in thick ice in antarctica. we have learned the chinese vessel that was on its way to the rescue now also cannot break through. nbc's martin fletcher has the latest.

>> reporter: help is on the horizon for the trapped research ship but not getting any closer. "snow dragon," the chinese ice breaker has been brought to a halt five miles away . this evening the chinese captain told the chinese news agency is ice is beyond the capability of his ship. it's too thick. 9 to 12 feet. to make matters worse, he expects a cyclone tonight. wind is driving the ice pack so quickly that the stuck ship which two days ago was miles from the open sea is now blocked by 13 miles of ice. scientists and passengers aboard the trapped ship may have celebrated too early today, tweeting this afternoon, "great news, ice breaker snow dragon on horizon with penguins, everyone very happy." however, ice is pushing into the trapped ship. the expedition leader recorded it on youtube.

>> ice has built up. the captain adjusted the ballast so we readjusted the level.

>> reporter: on his ship professor turney said he couldn't help thinking of "endurance" which was crushed by ice near here a hundred years ago. the famous explorer shackleton led the great escape across the ice without losing a life. not that the crew is worried yet. scientists are continuing their experiments, counting birds in the sea and probing the seabed 1200 feet below.

>> we have lots of food and energy. we have two weeks worth of fresh food.

>> reporter: even the "snow dragon" helicopter can't reach the ship because heavy snow kept it from taking off. another icebreaker from australia is joining a french vessel headed for the area. all waiting for a break in the weather to reach the stranded ship. martin fletcher , nbc news, london.