MS Explorer cruise ship passengers are safe

Friday, November 23, 2007

The MS Nordnorge, the cruise ship to which Explorer's passengers and crew have been transferred.

All passengers and crew from the stricken Canadian cruise ship MS Explorer are safe. Since broadcasting a call for help at approximately 05:24 UTC, a number of vessels in the area have raced to rescue her 156 passengers and crew. Four vessels led by the cruise ship the Endeavour were the first to arrive and pick up the evacuees from lifeboats and RIBs, later being transferred to the Norwegian ship, MS Nordnorge.

In less than one hour all passengers and crew, said to be cold but in good health, were safely transferred to the Nordnorge, and that vessel is now heading towards King George Island, three or four hours steaming away. Speaking on the BBC's News 24, the captain of the Nordnorge said that he was heading for the Chilean research station, from where it is expected that all can be flown back to the South American mainland.

Off the South Shetland Islands the ship struck an underwater object (believed to be a submerged iceberg ) the Explorer developed a fist sized crack and began taking on water. Initially said to be listing to starboard at 25° the Argentine Coast Guard reports that the list has since increased to 45° and the vessel is expected to sink soon. Concerns now turn to possible environmental concerns and damage.

The rescue effort was an international affair involving the coast guards of Argentina, USA, Chile and the UK. The UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency received notification from the US Coast Guard between 5.30-6.00 asking for the Explorer's emergency data plans.