The MS Explorer or MV Explorer was a Liberian-registered cruise ship, the first vessel of that kind used specifically to sail the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean. She was the first cruise ship to sink there,[3] after striking an iceberg on 23 November 2007. All passengers and crew were rescued.[4]

MS Explorer in January 2005
  • 1969–1985: MS Lindblad Explorer
  • 1985–1992: MS Society Explorer[2]
  • 1992–2007: MS Explorer
  • 1969–1972: K/S A/S Explorer & Co, Oslo, Norway
  • 1972–1980: Swedish American Line, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 1980–1982: Lindblad Swire Cruises, Panama
  • 1982–1983: Salén AB, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 1983–1985: Ferry Services Curacao NV, Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles
  • 1985–1992: Discoverer Reederei GmbH, Germany
  • 1992–2003: Explorer Shipping, Monrovia, Liberia
  • 2003–2004: Kyris Shipping Ltd., Monaco
  • 2004–2007: G.A.P. Shipping, Bahamas
Port of registry
BuilderUudenkaupungin Telakka, Uusikaupunki, Finland
Laid down1969
Launched14 December 1969
In service1969–2007
Out of service23 November 2007
FateSank after hitting an iceberg on 23 November 2007 at 62°24′S 57°16′W / 62.400°S 57.267°W / -62.400; -57.267.
General characteristics
Length239 ft (73 m)
Beam46 ft (14 m)
Draught14 ft 7 in (4.45 m)
Ice classICE-1A (as per BNV, equals Finnish-Swedish IA)[1]
Propulsion2 × MaK diesel M452 AK each 1,800 bhp (1,300 kW), driving a single variable-pitch propeller, 4 blades
Speed12.5 knots (23 km/h)
Capacity104 passengers

The ship was commissioned and operated by the Swedish explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad. Its 1969 expeditionary cruise to Antarctica was the forerunner for today's sea-based tourism in that region.[5][6] The vessel was originally named MS Lindblad Explorer (until 1985), and MS Society Explorer (until 1992). Ownership of the vessel changed several times, the last owner being the Toronto-based travel company G.A.P Adventures which acquired Explorer in 2004.[2][7]

Explorer was abandoned in the early hours of 23 November 2007 after taking on water near the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean, an area which is usually stormy but was calm at the time.[8] Explorer was confirmed by the Chilean Navy to have sunk at an approximate position of 62°24′S 57°16′W / 62.400°S 57.267°W / -62.400; -57.267, between the South Shetlands and Grahams Land in the Bransfield Strait;[9] where the depth is roughly 600 m.[10] The Royal Navy Antarctic Patrol Ship Endurance, whilst carrying out a hydrographic survey for the British Antarctic Survey and at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, later pinpointed Explorer's final resting place as 62°24′17.57″S 57°11′46.49″W / 62.4048806°S 57.1962472°W / -62.4048806; -57.1962472, at an approximate depth of 1,130 m – a distance of 4,373 m from her reported sinking position. This is broadly consistent with the direction of the prevailing current.[11]

History Edit

Tourists at Deception Island (2006)

Explorer was commissioned by Lars-Eric Lindblad, the Swedish-American pioneer of "exotic expedition" tours, and built in 1969 at Uudenkaupungin Telakka,[12] a shipyard in Uusikaupunki, Finland. The ship was built to stay afloat with two compartments filled with water. Her original Finnish-Swedish ice class was 1C, which is relatively weak. It is not known when the ice class was uprated to 1A.[13] The vessel was originally named Lindblad Explorer, after Lars-Eric Lindblad, and was the first custom-built expeditionary cruise ship.

The first notable incident of the Explorer was when it ran aground near La Plaza Point, Antarctica, on 11 February 1972; her passengers, Lindblad among them, were rescued by the Chilean Navy.[14] She was towed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to Kristiansand, Norway, for repairs.[15] After being renamed the Lindblad Explorer, the ship ran aground off Wiencke Island in the Antarctic on 25 December 1979.[16] The 70 passengers and 34 of the crew were rescued by the Chilean Navy Antarctic transport Piloto Pardo, leaving the captain and a skeleton crew of 21 on board to await the arrival of a tugboat.[17]

Explorer was the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage in 1984. She was involved in the rescue of the crew of an Argentine supply ship in 1989 that had hit a rock ledge off Anvers Island, Antarctica.[18] In 1998 Explorer was the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island;[19] and in the same year, was claimed to be the first ship, as distinct from river boat, to sail 80 miles (130 km) above Iquitos, Peru, to the point where the Marañón and Ucayali rivers meet to become the Amazon River.[20]

Explorer was depicted on at least two postage stamps issued by South Georgia, and one issued by the Falkland Islands.[21][22] Explorer was nicknamed "the Little Red Ship".[23] A scale model of Explorer is on display at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Sinking Edit

Location of King George Island
Map showing location of sinking
Passengers escape the sinking MS Explorer
The MS Explorer listing severely on 23 November 2007

Explorer departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, on 11 November 2007 on a 19-day cruise called Spirit of Shackleton run by GAP, intended to trace the route of the 20th-century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage (an area typically stormy with rough seas). After visiting the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, she hit an iceberg on 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait, close to King George Island in the Southern Ocean and near the South Shetland Islands. The iceberg struck by Explorer made a gash in the hull which allowed water to enter. The Argentine Navy later said in a statement that it had observed "significant" damage.[4] The official report of the sinking noted: "The damage sustained had to have extended along the length of the vessel from Cabins 308 to 314 for at least a distance of 3.6 meters, and, in all likelihood, had punctured and sliced holes along the shell plating."[24]

Some passengers on Explorer reported a loud "bang" at the time of impact, although others reported that there had been no noticeable impact, or at least nothing more than the normal crunching of ice experienced when sailing through icy waters. One passenger reported sea water in their cabin at about 03:00 UTC.[25][26] Some reports also indicated that the ship had drifted into an iceberg on Explorer's starboard side while the crew was assessing damage caused by the original impact, also to the starboard side of the ship.[27]

A Mayday call was put out by the ship at 04:24 UTC, and rescue operations were quickly coordinated by the DPA Peter Burman in Sweden who directly took contact with the Prefectura Naval Argentina (the Argentinian equivalent of a coastguard) and the Chilean Navy Center for Search and Rescue. Chile dispatched the icebreaker Almirante Óscar Viel, and nearby commercial ships; including the MN Ushuaia, the National Geographic Endeavor, and the Norwegian Coastal Express ship MS Nordnorge which was operating as a passenger cruise ship at the time.[28] By 07:30 UTC all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew,[a] from over 14 countries,[b] had taken to the Explorer's lifeboats.[29] They drifted for 5 hours until they were picked up by the Norwegian ship MS Nordnorge, which arrived on scene at approximately 10:00 UTC.[19][30]

All of those rescued by Nordnorge were taken to the Chilean Frei Montalva Station on King George Island, from where they were subsequently airlifted by C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Chilean Air Force to Punta Arenas, Chile,[19] in two separate flights; one on Saturday 24 November and the other on Sunday 25 November. Those passengers not taken to Punta Arenas (an estimated 70) were taken to Uruguay's Artigas Base. Explorer was completely submerged at 19:00 UTC, approximately 20 hours after the initial impact and damage to her hull.[31] Her wreck lies at 62°24′18″S 57°11′46″W / 62.404882°S 57.196247°W / -62.404882; -57.196247.

Explorer was designed, like most ships, with compartments which could be sealed off by watertight doors. The ship would not sink if holed and one compartment flooded, but was not safe if more compartments were flooded, either by a gash spanning compartments or imperfect sealing between compartments. GAP reported that there was a crack in addition to the hole, but it is not clear if it spanned compartments.[32]

In an article published on 8 December 2007, experts considered that Explorer was "perfect for ice navigation", and stated that the explanation of the sinking "doesn't add up" and that "essential pieces of the story are missing".[33]

Investigation Edit

The investigation into the sinking of Explorer was carried out by the Liberian Bureau of Maritime Affairs. The report into the accident was released in April 2009.[1] The report cites the decision by Captain Bengt Wiman,[34] age 49, to enter the ice field based on his knowledge and information available at the time as the primary reason why Explorer was so severely damaged. "He was under the mistaken impression that he was encountering first year ice, which in fact, as the Chilean Navy Report indicated, was much harder land ice."[citation needed]

Passengers reported seeing red paint on the passing ice less than thirty minutes prior to when the flooding was reported, another indication that the vessel was passing through compact and hard ice. The master of Explorer was very experienced in Baltic waters, but he was unfamiliar with the type of ice he encountered in Antarctic waters.[1] The report's investigating officer could not convince GAP that it was their responsibility to retrieve the ship's voyage data recorder, after the master failed to ensure its transfer from the ship despite being reminded to do so.[1] The report also found that, given that the GAP staff "served the function of crew members", they should have had "the required safety training and documents as seafarers".[1]

The report praises the performance of the master and crew in organizing and evacuating the passengers, and notes that lives were likely saved due to the actions of these individuals.[1]

Side view of scale model of Lindblad Explorer on display at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of Passenger Vessel Explorer (O.N. 8495) 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands" (PDF). Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Liberia. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b Possibly also named MS World Explorer after 1985
  3. ^ Reel, Monte (24 November 2007). "Cruise Ship Sinks Off Antarctica". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b "154 Rescued From Sinking Ship in Antarctic: Passengers, Crew Boarding Another Ship After Wait In Lifeboats; No Injuries Reported". CBS News. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  5. ^ Mar 28 – Hump Day Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, British Antarctic Survey.
  6. ^ Scope of Antarctic Tourism – A Background Presentation Archived 16 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, IAATO official website.
  7. ^ "Expeditions aboard the legendary M/S Explorer". G.A.P. Adventures. Archived from the original on 18 April 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Doomed Ship Defies Antarctica Odds". Reuters. 25 November 2007. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  9. ^ "MS Explorer – situation report". The Falkland Islands News. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 25 November 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
  10. ^ MV Explorer Cruise Ship Sinking In South Atlantic, The Shipping Times, 23 November 2007
  11. ^ "Royal Navy Locates Antarctic Wreck of Cruise Liner". Fleet Media & Communication, Royal Navy. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  12. ^ Finnish: Uudenkaupungin telakka
  13. ^ "Explorer syntyi talvisodan hengessä" (in Finnish). Aamulehti. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 24 November 2007.
  14. ^ Lars-Eric Lindblad, 67, Pioneer Of Tours to Exotic Destinations, The New York Times, 13 July 1994.
  15. ^ Erik Langeland
  16. ^ "125 taken off ship aground in Antarctic". The Times. No. 60509. London. 27 December 1979. col G, p. 4.
  17. ^ Caffin, J.M. (ed.). "Lindblad Explorer runs aground" (PDF). Antarctic. 9 (1): 35–36. Retrieved 3 February 2016. On her way back to Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, where she was due on December 30, the Lindblad Explorer passed by Wiencke Island, which lies between Anvers Island and the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. She was off Cape Astrup at the north-eastern end of the island when she ran aground. A sunken rock with less than 1.8m of water over it lies about 402m north of the cape.
  18. ^ Pavia, Will; Strange, Hannah; Bone, James (24 November 2007). "Iceberg blamed as passengers flee holed ship in icy waters". The Times. London. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  19. ^ a b c "Cruise boat sinking off Argentina". BBC News. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  20. ^ M/S Explorer Archived 25 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Philatelie Polaire Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine South Georgia stamps.
  22. ^ Falkland Isles Stamp Archived 28 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Stricken Antarctic ship evacuated". BBC News. 24 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  24. ^ "Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of Passenger Vessel EXPLORER (O.N. 8495) 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands" (PDF). Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Liberia. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  25. ^ Antarctic cruise ship tourists live to tell 'Titanic 2' jokes, The Daily News (New York), 25 November 2007.
  26. ^ Ulster grandad set for home after Antarctic rescue drama, The Belfast Telegraph, 26 November 2007.
  27. ^ Canadian ship lost in Antarctic, The Toronto Star, 24 November 2007.
  28. ^ "Armada apoya labores de rescate de buque de pasajeros Explorer" (in Spanish). Chilean Navy. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 25 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  29. ^ Reel, Monte (25 November 2007). "Passengers of Doomed Cruise Ship Reach Chile With Vivid Accounts". The Washington Post. pp. A18.
  30. ^ "Passengers are being rescued from M/S Explorer". Dagbladet. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  31. ^ "Passengers unhurt after Antarctic ship hits ice". Reuters UK. 24 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  32. ^ International Herald Tribune
  33. ^ "Questions swirl around the sinking of the MS Explorer". Christian Science Monitor. 3 December 2007. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  34. ^ Wall Street Journal, 16–17 Feb. 2019, p. B8

Notes Edit

  1. ^ The crew of 54 was made up largely of Filipinos, 45 of whom were aboard
  2. ^ G.A.P. Adventures listed: 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans, 12 Canadians and 10 Australians, 4 Swedes, 4 Irish, 3 Danes, 2 Argentines, 2 Belgians, 2 Chinese (Hong Kong), and single passengers from China, France, Germany, Japan, Colombia, Sweden. Not clarified, are earlier reports of 2 New Zealanders, 2 Bulgarians, and 1 Pole.

External links Edit

62°14′S 57°10′W / 62.24°S 57.16°W / -62.24; -57.16