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22 December 2011

New Zealand makes successful drop for Antarctic boat

The Russian fishing vessel Sparta is seen in waters in the Ross Sea, close to the Antarctic ice shelf

A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane Wednesday made a successful parachute drop of equipment to a Russian fishing boat stranded in the Antarctic after being holed by an underwater iceberg.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand said three pallets, including pumps and patches to repair a 30-centimetre hole in the hull of the 48-metre Sparta, were dropped on the ice shelf next to the ship after an 8-hour flight from Christchurch.

A spokesman said the 32-man crew, who sent out a distress call six days ago saying the ship was sinking in the Ross Sea, about 3,700 kilometres south-east of New Zealand, would now focus on making more permanent repairs to get underway again.

The vessel, which had been listing 13 degrees, was back on even keel and occasional pumping could keep it empty of water, a statement said.

The South Korean polar research vessel Araon, which left New Zealand to go to the Sparta's aid four days ago, was expected to arrive in the area Monday.

Two Norwegian Seljavaer and Sparta's sister ship the Chiyo Maru No 3 were having trouble negotiating thick pack ice as they try to reach the stricken vessel.

The weather in the area was reported to be reasonably good but was forecast to worsen Thursday.

- The Times Live