AN expedition of 52 scientists and tourists has arrived in Australia, setting foot on dry land for the first time since they were rescued from a ship trapped in Antarctic sea ice three weeks ago.

Arguments continue about who will pay for the extraordinary rescue operation that involved America, China, France and Australia.

Expedition leader Chris Turney told reporters who greeted them in the port of Hobart, where they ended the final leg of their rescue journey aboard an Australian icebreaker, it was still not clear who would pay for their rescue.

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Professor Turney, a climate change expert at New South Wales University, Sydney, said lawyers and insurers were negotiating on the costs of the rescue.

He said: "I understand four nations helping is quite unusual. That's not our call, that's beyond our control."

His expedition began on November 28 and their Russian icebreaker, the Akademik Shokalskiy, became trapped in ice-clogged Commonwealth Bay on Christmas Eve.