Antarctic Iceberg Claimed Cruise Ship Explorer
By James Donahue
The modest Liberian cruise ship Explorer was carrying 91 passengers from 14 countries, nine guides and 54 crew members
on an adventurous trip through the ice bound southern seas when it struck an iceberg and sank in November, 2007.
The 239-foot-long ship had been chartered by Canadian GAP Adventures for the 19-day cruise from Ushuala, Argentina,
following the route of Twentieth Century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage and skirting Antarctica.
After calling at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, the Explorer was breaking through ice in Bransfield Strait
off King George Island and near South Shetland Islands when it collided on November 23 with a hidden block of ice that sliced
a fatal gash in the steel hull.
A mayday radio call brought help to the scene within hours. With pumps working the 38-year-old Explorer settled slowly,
taking about 20 hours to sink, which gave the passengers and crew time to escape in the ship’s lifeboats and await help
Vessels from the Argentine Coast Guard Corps, Chilean Navy Center for Search and Rescue and various other ships operating
in the area rushed to the scene. The Norwegian cruise ship Nordnorge was the first to arrive and picked up most of the passengers.
Because the lifeboats were well equipped with emergency survival gear and the passengers were given special evacuation
training at the start of the cruise, everyone escaped the sinking without injury. The passengers and crew members endured
a cold wind and waves on the open sea for about four hours before they were rescued, authorities said.
The passengers were from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Holland, France, Germany, Hong Kong,
Ireland, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.
Spring and summer cruises along the Antarctic coast have been popular in recent years