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Repairs to begin on stranded fishing boat in Antarctic

By David Barbe


WELLINGTON, New Zealand —Repairs are set to start Tuesday on a stricken Russian fishing boat, Sparta, stranded for 11 days in the Antarctic after striking an iceberg, the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand said.

A Korean icebreaker, Araon, reached the Sparta, about 2,300 miles southeast of New Zealand.. Two other ships sent to the Sparta’s aid had to turn back because of thick pack ice in the Ross Sea.

The Sparta, which has 32 crew members, sent out a distress call Dec. 16, 16 saying it was sinking near the Antarctic ice shelf.

Geoff Lunt, a spokesman for the rescue center, said the icebreaker was pumping fuel off the Sparta to raise its bow above the water line, exposing the foot-wide hole in the hull so it could be repaired.

He said once the damage was clear of the water, crew from both vessels would attempt to weld double plates to the inside and outside of the hull.

If repairs are successful, the Araon will cut a path through the ice to lead the Sparta to open water. Lunt said it would sail to the nearest New Zealand port of Lyttelton if further repairs were required.

Lunt said Tuesday’s weather conditions were calm and favorable for the repair work.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force made two flights last week to drop equipment that let the Sparta’s crew pump out the seawater flowing into the boat.

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