Patched-up Russian vessel sails from Antarctica

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The patched-up Russian fishing boat Sparta completed temporary repairs and set sail from the Antarctic Wednesday, ending a 12-day battle to stay afloat in icy waters, rescue officials said.

"Repairs on the stricken vessel Sparta are complete. She is now heading north to rendezvous with her sister ship Chiyo Maru No 3 in the open ocean," said rescue coordinator Tracy Brickles.

The Sparta, with a crew of 32, had been stranded near the Antarctic ice shelf for 12 days after being holed below the waterline while heavy ice prevented nearby vessels from giving immediate assistance.

Pumps and fuel dropped from a New Zealand Air Force Hercules helped keep the vessel afloat until a South Korean icebreaker reached it on Christmas Day with equipment to speed up repairs.

"The Korean icebreaker Araon will escort Sparta and open an ice lane to allow both vessels to make their way from the ice shelf," Brickles said.

The Sparta is expected to make its way to New Zealand, 2,000 nautical miles away, for permanent repairs.

© 2011 AFP

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