Russian boat stricken in Antarctic has second hole

WELLINGTON - A second hole has been found in a stricken Russian fishing boat in Antarctic waters, but rescuers said they were making good progress with repairs and the vessel should be seaworthy by Wednesday.

The Sparta, with a crew of 32, has been stranded near the Antarctic ice shelf since it was holed 11 days ago and heavy ice in the area prevented nearby vessels offering immediate assistance.

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

New Zealand rescue coordinator Mike Roberts said Tuesday repairs were well in hand "with good progress being made to repair the internal damage" to make the vessel seaworthy.

"Since the bow was raised above water level a second hole has been discovered on Sparta's bulbous bow, but this has only caused localised flooding in a small, contained space in this area," Roberts said.

"It should not affect her making safe passage."

Roberts said the Korean vessel Araon would remain alongside the Sparta until the repairs were completed and would then escort her to an ice-free area of open ocean.

The vessels were expected to get under way at 1100 GMT Wednesday, he said.