The Akademik Shokalskiy had been marking the 100th anniversary of Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition by retracing the explorer's famous journey when it got stuck in the heavy pack ice. Poor weather thwarted all air- and sea-rescue attempts for days.
Passengers and crew killed time (and exhibited high spirits) by playing games, watching movies — and singing about their ordeal.
On Thursday, however, thanks to calmer winds and improved visibility, a Chinese helicopter was finally able to reach the ship and fly each of the scientists and tourists aboard to Aurora Australis, an Australian icebreaker, in a four-hour rescue operation that took five trips.
Everyone is believed to be in good condition.
"I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home," expedition leader Chris Turney told the Associated Press by satellite phone from the Antarctic.
Turney tweeted his thanks for the hard work involved in the mission:
— Chris Turney (@ProfChrisTurney) January 2, 2014
Akademik Shokalskiy's 22 Russian crew members stayed with the ship, which is not in danger of sinking. They have weeks' worth of supplies on board and will wait until the ice surrounding their ship breaks up.
"I'm a bit sad it's ended this way," Turney admitted. "But we got lots and lots of great science done."