Nightly News | December 29, 2013
>>> the rescue of those 74 people trapped aboard a research ship stuck in the ice in antarctica may now be just hours away. the team leader aboard the ship tells nbc news that approaching australian ice breaker is now making good progress. we get the latest from nbc 's duncan goel stonny.
>> reporter: after seven days trapped at the bottom of the earth, these stranded scientists may soon be rescued. the australian ice breaker is pushing its way to the russian research ship , hoping to sail where others have not been able, into the thick, compacted ice.
>> that's what we aim to do, see if we can break them out.
>> reporter: the 74 team members are still collecting data and making the most of the situation, exploring the icy waters, getting to know their penguin neighbors, and taking selfies.
>> hi, everybody. it's mary from antarctica. having a wonderful time. you can see we have this wonderful snowy wonderland. it's my birthday today. couldn't be a better day .
>> it's absolutely spectacular here.
>> reporter: there is also hope that even if the australian ship fails to breakthrough the ice, which in some places is ten feet thick, the passengers can still be air lifted off. this helicopter belongs to a nearby chinese ship. its crew reported earlier today that ice conditions appear to be improving. and the team leader posted a photo of the ice cracking.
>> alternatives to the ice breakers are things like the helicopter evacuation. that's the last measure, really. the first priority is to see if we can get the vessel out with everyone on board.
>> reporter: this expedition began at the end of november and was to conclude on january 4th in new zealand. they should still make it on time. today the team was briefed on the possibility that journey could begin with a helicopter rescue. amid the laugher this, they had just one concern. how would they get their luggage back?
>> see you soon!
>> reporter: nbc news.