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Ships 3


Liner Prinsendam Burned Off Alaska Coast

By James Donahue

The Dutch liner Prinsendam was on a cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Singapore when destroyed by fire in the Gulf of Alaska on the night of October 4, 1980. In spite of gale force winds all 520 passengers and members of the crew escaped alive before the blazing ship capsized and sank.

It was the second fire to strike the ill-fated ship. The first occurred in 1973 while the 427-foot vessel was still under construction.

The vessel was on a northern course on the Pacific, and four days out of Vancouver when fire broke out in the engine room at about midnight. The ship’s fire doors were closed and crew members battled the blaze. The vessel was not equipped with a sprinkler system, however, and the fire consequently got out of control. Five hours later the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

Even before the order was given, the 319 passengers were ordered out of their cabins and told to assemble on the main deck. Many of them gathered, still clad in their nightclothes. That was all they were wearing when the order was given to abandon ship.

The Coast Guard responded to the ship’s distress call, sending the Cutter Mellon and a helicopter to the scene. Fortunately, the supertanker Williamsburgh was close by and arrived in time to rescue many people from the ship’s lifeboats. The Coast Guard helicopter helped transport others from the deck of the burning liner to the Williamsburgh and later the Cutter Mellon.

Later the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell arrived to assist in a search for one of the life boats which had not been located. It later was found and all of its occupants safely lifted off.

In the end, all of the passengers and crew members of the Prinsendam were rescued alive, although some were given medical treatment for exposure after spending up to 20 hours in life boats on the open sea.

The liner continued to burn for several days, and began listing. Then on October 11, seven days after the fire started, it sank about 120 miles south of Yakutat, Alaska.


Burned And Sinking