Australian icebreaker refloated in Antarctica after grounding

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Expeditioners evacuated from Australia's flagship icebreaker Aurora Australis, watch as the ship is refloated after running aground at Mawson research station in Antarctica

Expeditioners evacuated from Australia's flagship icebreaker Aurora Australis, watch as the ship is refloated after running aground at Mawson research station in Antarctica (AFP Photo/)

An Australian icebreaker that ran aground in Antarctica during a blizzard has been successfully refloated, officials said Saturday.

The Aurora Australis ran aground with 68 people on board after breaking its moorings on Wednesday and was stuck on rocks at Horseshoe Harbour, close to Australia's Mawson station.

"The Aurora Australis has been successfully refloated and has made its way out of Mawson harbour," the Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement.

"The ship now remains in the vicinity of Mawson research station, where crew will conduct a thorough assessment of damage over the coming days."

The 37 expeditioners onboard were rescued by barge on Friday, and the crew remained to refloat the ship.

There was no sign of any oil pollution from the ship, which was refloated late Friday on the rising tide by the P&O Maritime crew using the vessel's ballast system and work boats.

The Australian Antarctic Division is discussing with other Antarctic programmes how to transfer the expeditioners, currently at Mawson station, back to Australia.

The United States Antarctic programme has already pitched in to take more than 30 expeditioners from another of Australia's stations, Davis, later Saturday to Casey station, some 1,500 kilometres (950 miles) away, by plane.

The group had been scheduled to return to Australia on the Aurora Australis after a southern hemisphere summer in Antarctica. They are now expected to be flown home on an AAD plane in the coming days.