Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Cruise vessel Explorer hits an Iceberg

Friday, November 23, 2007 06:30 Local Time

Here in Antarctica we were in for a huge surprise today. At roughly 01:30 local time (LT) the National Geographic Endeavour received a telex distress message from MV Explorer, call sign ELJD8, via Valparaiso Playa Ancha Radio. The nature of distress was “flooding." The ship had evidently hit an iceberg that had punctured the hull. The officers of the National Geographic Endeavour fixed the position of the Explorer at 62.24 S, 057.71 W, a distance of roughly 60 miles from our ship. The Endeavour immediately turned and started steaming at full power towards the stricken Explorer.

Just before 03:00 LT contact was again made with the Explorer, receiving a position update (62.23.5 S, 057. 15.1 W) and the message that the ship was without propulsion drifting towards the ice. The evacuation of all 154 people on board the ship was in progress. Fifteen crew members had initially stayed behind to try and manage the flooding, but by 04:50 LT all 154 guests and crew had abandoned ship.

Both the National Geographic Endeavour and the Norwegian cruise ship Nordnorge arrived on the scene at roughly 06:30 LT. People had been in lifeboats for roughly three and a half hours. As these photos show, the sea conditions were relatively calm and ice-free.

Immediately upon arriving the scene the crew from the Explorer began towing the passenger filled lifeboats towards the Nordnorge. I was on the bow of the National Geographic Endeavour filming the whole event. The Chilean Navy was also on the scene in a helicopter watching over (and filming) the entire rescue.

The rescue went smoothly and efficiently. Guests were transferred from the large and ungainly lifeboats into the Explorer Zodiacs and then taken on board the Nordnorge.

There was no panic and very little confusion as the transfers went smoothly and efficiently.

Guests on board the Nordnorge watched and filmed the whole event from the upper decks.

In very short order all 154 people were safely transferred to the Nordnorge. By 07:30 LT all guests and crew were safely aboard the Nordnorge. These images were taken from the bow of the National Geographic Endeavour. The Explorer continued listing and taking on water, finally sinking later that day.