Sydney (AFP) - A Chinese icebreaker heading to rescue a scientific expedition vessel trapped off Antarctica has itself stalled in icy conditions, Australian media said citing maritime authorities.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is coordinating the rescue of the Russian passenger ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said the icebreaker came within six-and-a-half nautical miles of the ship but had to stop.
"It has encountered heavy ice and it's not safe for them to continue to the Russian vessel for their own safety," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted an AMSA official as saying.
"We'll be looking at other options today (Saturday)," she said.
The Russian ship, with 74 people on board, has been trapped in ice about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville since Tuesday.
Three vessels with icebreaking capability, including Australia's Antarctic resupply ship Aurora Australis, have headed to the area to attempt to rescue the vessel.
The ship is carrying scientists and tourists who are following the Antarctic path of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson a century ago.
They have been carrying out the same scientific experiments his team conducted during the 1911-1914 Australian Antarctic Expedition -- the first large-scale Australian-led scientific expedition to the frozen continent.
Several members of the team have already battled sea ice to reach the historic Mawson's Huts -- built and occupied by the 1911-1914 expedition -- which have been isolated for years by a giant iceberg.