Expedition leaders on an Antarctic ship stuck in ice over Christmas have apologised for the disruption caused by the rescue mission, but believe it is too early to say who will pay the $2.4 million bill.
The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis arrived in Hobart this morning carrying 52 passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy.
The Russian ship became stuck in thick sea ice at Commonwealth Bay on Christmas Eve and was trapped for more than a week.
When conditions eased, the passengers were airlifted by helicopter to the Aurora Australis.
The icebreaker then continued on its resupply mission to Australia's Casey Station, before starting the week-long voyage back to Hobart.
The mission delayed Australia's research program and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) says it pursue all avenues in an attempt to recoup costs.
Director Tony Fleming says the total bill could be as high as $2.4 million.
The AAD is talking to the ship's insurers and the University of New South Wales which chartered the vessel.
Expedition leader Chris Turney has described the rescue mission as a great example of international co-operation and he thanked the Australian, Chinese, French and Americans involved.
He says he is sorry people's work was disrupted by the rescue but says it is too early to tell if expedition organisers will be footing the bill.
"We are terribly sorry for any impact that might have had on fellow colleagues, whose work has been delayed from the operation, but any experienced Antarctic scientist knows that's an inherent risk" he said.
"We hope they are going to have a good season to hopefully catch up on their work."
Professor Turney has also been forced to defend himself from criticism that he was too inexperienced to take the ship into Commonwealth Bay.
He says the captain became concerned and raised the alarm when the ship came within several hundreds metres of icebergs after initially being caught in the sea ice.
Prof. Turney says it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"The fundamental problem was there was obviously a massive upheaval of movement of sea ice from another part of Antarctica.. we hadn't seen that in any of the satellite imagery before and it caught us."
Ship listing in ice floe
Passenger Kerry Tozer paid thousands of dollars for what should have been a four-week trip.
"We weren't really that concerned until we started hearing about the icebergs moving around and the mobilisation of the ice and we actually saw in the ice floes around us over the next few days some of the pressure ridges building up," she said.
"It was really amazing and we'd get this list on the boat and list back the other way, so it was quite exciting in a way but a few people were getting a little bit concerned."
Ms Wilson, an ornithologist, was able to continue her research on penguins, but says emotions were mixed among paying passengers.
"[There was] frustration that we weren't going places, an element of disappointment that we were on our way to Macquarie Island and we were going to have two days there."
Expedition doctor Andrew Peacock says spirits among the stranded passengers remained high and he praised the crew of the Akademik Sholalskiy.
"Antarctica is an unpredictable place and things can happen down there," he said.
"We felt that the people looking after the ship were experienced and knew what they were doing, and we trusted the people that were down there.
"Everyone was fine from a health point of view. We were on a very comfortable, wonderful, well-equipped ship with lots of things to do, and we were in an amazing environment."
The ship carrying scientists and tourists had planned research projects as it retraced the voyage of Sir Douglas Mawson to the frozen continent a century ago.
Passengers took to social media as they docked in Hobart.
On Twitter, Professor Turney thanked the Antarctic Division for getting them home safely.
Just arrived in Hobart. Great to be in Oz. It's warm! A huge thanks to @ausantarcticÂ for getting us all home safe and sound.Â #spiritofmawson
â Chris Turney (@ProfChrisTurney)Â January 21, 2014
The rescue was an international and prolonged operation which resulted in the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long also becoming stuck in ice.