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January 01, 2014 AT 2:44 PM
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 on Thursday after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which is handling the operation, said early Thursday that weather conditions had improved in the area since Wednesday and rescue flights were likely to commence shortly. The Aurora came within 12 miles of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.