Trapped Ships Break Free of Antarctic Ice Before rescue ship can reach them By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Jan 7, 2014 9:18 AM CST 8 comments Comments The Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is seen trapped in thick Antarctic ice, Dec. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock, File) (Newser) – Two ships that have been trapped near Antarctica broke free of their icy prisons today—before the US ship coming to rescue them could even arrive. A crack appeared in the ice surrounding the Akademik Shokalskiy and the Xue Long following a change in wind direction, the captain of the Russian ship told Itar-Tass. "We're going slowly and zig-zagging," he said, according to the BBC. "It's tough going so far, a lot of mist, visibility is no more than 500 meters." He said the ship was moving at just 7 knots, but had made it 20 nautical miles so far. He confirmed that the Xue, too, was moving once more, close behind them. The Akademik was in the middle of an adventure/research mission when it became trapped in ice on Christmas. The icebreaker Xue Long sailed to its rescue—and soon became stuck itself. It did, however, send its helicopter to evacuate all the passengers from the Akademik, leaving only its essential crew members behind.