The Russian vessel is being used by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales.
The trip hoped to follow in the footsteps of explorer Douglas Mawson, who undertook the first complete study of the region 100 years ago.
But on Christmas Eve, the vessel, known as the Shokalskiy, became surrounded in a thick pack of ice and could not move, according to a blog posted on the expedition website by one of the science team. The ship lies 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart in Tasmania.
The captain sent out a distress signal that was received by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on Christmas Day. The authority dispatched three icebreaking ships to help free the vessel. The first arrived on December and attempted to free the Shokalskiy overnight but could not.
Another Australian icebreaking ship arrived in the area on 30 December but progress to free the ship has halted due to poor weather conditions.
A Chinese vessel equipped with a helicopter is also in the vicinity of the Shokalskiy. This may be used if the Australian icebreaker is unable to reach the vessel, according to the AMSA.
Media reports and blogs from those trapped on board suggest that research is continuing despite the hiatus.
The majority of academics on board are from the University of New South Wales.