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Sparta being escorted out to open sea

Published: 7:24AM Wednesday December 28, 2011 Source: ONE News

The patched-up Russian ship Sparta is gingerly making its way through the Antarctic ice, after being stranded for almost a fortnight.

The Sparta is expected to rendezvous with its sister ship the Chiyo Maru No 3 in the open sea at about 8pm.

The Russian fishing boat set off from Antarctica at around 8am today once repairs were finished.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokesman John Dickson said Korean icebreaker Araon is cutting a path through the ice for the Sparta.

It is understood that the Araon will today escort the Sparta through about 100 nautical miles of sea ice, before it can sail to New Zealand for further repairs.

The 48-metre long vessel hit a submerged iceberg on December 16 while trawling for tooth-fish in the Ross Sea. The collision created was initally though to have created a 30-centimetre hole in the side of the ship.

Repairs

Korean research vessel, Araon, came to the Sparta's aid on Monday, and transferred fuel off it when a second hole was discovered.

Maritime New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre said in the end only internal repairs to the hull were possible.

The crew flattened the area around the hole in the ship's side, and put a shell plate over it.

A cement box was then secured to the inside of plating, to make the vessel seaworthy.

Spokesman Chris Henshaw said fuel was then transferred back onto the Sparta overnight.

The second hole, in Sparta's bulbous bow, could not be repaired from its location in Antarctica said Search and Rescue Mission (RCCNZ) co-ordinator Mike Roberts.

"Since the bow was raised above water level a second hole has been discovered on Sparta's bulbous bow."

But this has only caused localised flooding in a small, contained space in this area."

Roberts said this second hole should not affect the ship's passage to safety.

The Sparta crew are grateful to have the help of the Korean Research vessel Araon, he added.

- with Newstalk ZB

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