Frozen Out: 98% of Stories Ignore That Ice-bound Ship Was On Global Warming Mission

Scientists rescued from stranded ship, but networks label them ‘tourists.’

A group of climate change scientists were rescued by helicopter Jan. 2, after being stranded in the ice since Christmas morning. But the majority of the broadcast networks’ reports about the ice-locked climate researchers never mentioned climate change.

The Russian ship, Akademic Shokalskiy, was stranded in the ice while on a climate change research expedition, yet nearly 98 percent of network news reports about the stranded researchers failed to mention their mission at all. Forty out of 41 stories (97.5 percent) on the network morning and evening news shows since Dec. 25 failed to mention climate change had anything to do with the expedition.

In fact, rather than point out the mission was to find evidence of climate change, the networks often referred to the stranded people as “passengers,” “trackers” and even “tourists,” without a word about climate change or global warming.

Chris Turney, the expedition’s leader, is a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales. According to Turney’s personal website, the purpose of the expedition is to “discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.”

Twenty-two crew members stayed with the ship for the time being, as the scientists and researchers were rescued. According to CNN, the ship has enough supplies for “a very long time.”

Three rescue attempts had been thwarted by growing levels of sea ice and weather conditions.

"Outside, blizzard conditions packing an abnormal amount of ice in to the area for this time of the year, summer in the Antarctic," ABC News Correspondent Gio Benitez reported on “Good Morning America” Dec. 31.

On Jan. 2, all 52 passengers were airlifted to a nearby Australian icebreaker ship which had tried, and failed, to plow through the ice and free the Akademic Shokalskiy, on Dec. 30. “Good Morning America” said on Dec. 30, that “the ice could be as thick as 13 feet.”

According to Fox News, Turney admitted “we’re stuck in our own experiment.” They reported on Dec. 30, that a statement from the Australasian Antarctic Expedition said, “Sea ice is disappearing due to climate change, but here ice is building up.”

There was only one news story out of 41 that mentioned climate change. That was CBS “This Morning” Dec. 30. “Despite being frozen at a standstill, the team’s research on climate change and Antarctic wildlife is moving forward,” CBS News Correspondent Don Dahler said. That night, all three evening news programs still failed to make any mention of the group’s climate change research.

The MRC’s Business and Media Institute was unable to view a copy of CBS “Sunday Morning” for Dec. 29, so that broadcast had to be excluded from the tally.

Before their ship got stuck in ice, the researchers were following the trail of the explorer Douglas Mawson, who was stranded in Antarctica for more than a year, beginning in December 1912, according to the website about the expedition.

— Mike Ciandella is Staff Writer/Analyst for the Business and Media Institute at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.