Antarctic Cruise Ship Loses Engine Crossing The Drake Passage

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Another Antarctic cruise ship experienced problems while traveling through the Southern Ocean yesterday, and while no one was seriously hurt in the incident, the notoriously bad weather in the Drake Passage was a constant threat while the ship was adrift.

You can read a full account of the story on Jon Bowermaster’s website. Apparently, the Clelia II was on the return trip form the Antarctic Peninsula to Ushuaia, Argentina when it lost one of its engines, which also impacted power and communications on board the vessel. At the time, the weather in the Drake Passage was at its worst, with 30-foot waves battering the ship. In fact, one of those waves swept up over the cruise liner, smashing out windows and flooding the bridge. To really see what the conditions were like, check out this video also on Jon’s website.

As luck would have it, another cruise ship, the National Geographic Explorer, happened by and tried to contact the Clelia II. When it received no response, the Explorer turned around to render aid. Communications were eventually established by launching satellite phones onto the foundering ship with what is described as a “rocket propelled” canister.

The Explorer stayed close to the damaged vessel until repairs to its engine could be made and it could get back underway for Ushuaia. The last reports has the Clelia II continuing on that voyage with hopes of arriving later today.

It should be noted that the cruise ship is carrying 88 passengers and 77 crew, with only minor injuries reported to a single member of the crew. It seems that the situation was dire for a time, as the weather in the region was extremely bad while the ship was adrift without power. According to Jon’s report on the situation, the captain of the Clelia II has made 159 trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and was quoted as saying that he had “never seen such weather.”

Fortunately, the situation seems to have resolved itself and the ship is heading back to port where full repairs can be made. Thankfully no one was injured or killed and the safety record in the Antarctic remains high, despite some rather high profile incidences with cruise ships in recent years, most notably the sinking of the MS Explorer back in 2007.

Update: A short time ago I received a note from the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) with a status update on the Clelia II. The ship is operating under its own power and is making its way, at normal speeds towards Ushuaia. The weather has started to improve as well, so it appears that the ship, and all aboard, will arrive back in port a bit later than usual, but otherwise in fine shape.

In the greater scheme of things, it seems that weather was the most dangerous element to this whole situation. The loss of an engine didn’t help the situation at all, but everything was exasperated by incredibly bad weather. It is good to hear that everything is back on track now.

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Antarctic Cruise Ship Loses Engine Crossing The Drake Passage”

  1. It seems like miracle that the situation was resolved it self. I have caught tons of causes in which ship lost due to various reasons. Love to read your article. I will tell this story to my colleagues.
    Tours of Antarctica

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