Iceberg Sinks Cruise Ship off Antarctica

Bill Cormier in Santiago, Chile
Associated Press
November 24, 2007

A small Canadian cruise ship carrying passengers who paid thousands of dollars to retrace the route of a 20th-century explorer struck an iceberg early Friday and sank hours later in icy waters off Antarctica. All 154 passengers aboard escaped safely.

The tourists were waiting out bad weather Saturday at a remote Chilean military base before they could be airlifted to the South American mainland.

Its reinforced hull gashed and taking on water, the M.S. Explorer slipped beneath the waves Friday evening, about 20 hours after its predawn accident near the South Shetland Islands, the Chilean Navy said.

Initial reports suggested only a small hole was punched into the hull, but the Argentine Navy later said in a statement it observed "significant" damage.

Photos released by the Chilean Navy throughout the day showed the ship lying nearly on its side, surrounded by floating blocks of ice.

Passengers did not panic when the ship struck ice, said Andrea Salas, an Argentine crew member aboard the Explorer.

"The captain told us there was water coming in through a hole. We grabbed our main things and our coats and we got into the boats almost immediately," Salas told the Associated Press.

"There wasn't any panic at all, and luckily, everything went well. Now, after all the anxiety has passed, we can just say, Hey, we're still alive."

Writer Jon Bowermaster, a National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee, is aboard the National Geographic Endeavour, another small cruise ship, which was the first to answer the Explorer's distress call. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

"There was a long line of black rubber Zodiac boats and a handful of orange lifeboats strung out, and it was very surreal, because it was a very beautiful morning with the sun glistening off the relatively calm sea," Bowermaster told the New York Times by satellite phone.

"And all you could think was how relieved these people must have been when they saw these two big ships coming."

Stormy Rescue

Continued on Next Page >>


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