SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
DOUGHTY ANTARCTIC TOURISTS EXPERIENCE A TASTE OF 'THE SHACKLETON EXPERIENCE'
Some 445 miles south-east of Ushuaia, the Explorer was in the general area of the South Shetlands and Graham Land, off King George Island and approaching the Bransfield Strait as she made for the tip of Antarctica and the Danco coast, when it apparently struck what Shackleton would have known as a 'growler', an underwater iceberg.
One of the cabins below the waterline was punctured with a hole 'the size of a fist', and there was subsequent cracking. That was sufficient, after attempts were made to stem the water incursion, to cause a 45 degree list in the ship. 90 minutes later the captain gave orders for 'abandon ship'.
The area north of the tip of Antarctica is famously prone to major storms and howling winds. Fortunately the conditions were relatively mild (only -5 degrees centigrade, with a sea temperature at around -1 degree), seas were calm and winds light at the time, providing optimal conditions for an evacuation, and everyone was safely evacuated from the eight semi-rigid lifeboats and four life rafts onto the 403 foot, ten-year-old Norwegian cruise ship NorNorge, in a rescue operation coordinated from Norfolk, Virginia and by the Argentinians in Ushuaia.
The Chilean navy, which first received a distress signal around 10 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of Thursday 22 Nov (3 a.m. GMT on Friday morning) reported that after attempts by the captain and crew to see if she could be righted, the water pumped out and the damage made good, the Explorer was completely abandoned and finally sank beneath the Antarctic waves on the evening of Friday 23rd November, about 20 hours after the accident.
Gap Adventures spokeswoman Susan Hayes said it was not an iceberg, but a "submerged piece of ice."
The MV Explorer is known as the 'Little Red Ship', a 'small ship with a big heart', because of its plucky endeavours prior to now. She was the first custom-built ship designed for cruises and expeditions; most famously, she was the first cruise ship to traverse the North West Passage, and to visit the far east of Russia as part of an Arctic exploration. Originally Scandinavian-owned, she currently belonged to Gap Adventures, a respected Canadian travel firm, sailing under a Liberian flag of convenience.
The Independent also reported Captain Arnvid Hansen, the Norwegian skipper of the NordNorge, as saying, 'All are aboard my vessel. There are no afraid passengers, or anything like that. Some are cold but none has hypothermia. We are giving them as many clothes as we can.'