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"Titanic" 2007?? ALMOST!!


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Britons saved in dramatic Antarctic rescue after cruise ship hits iceberg

 

Last updated at 12:08pm on 23rd November 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (13)

More than 150 passengers, including 23 Britons, have been saved after their cruise liner hit an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean earlier today.

The passengers and all but two of the crew were evacuated on to liferafts in sub-zero temperatures before being taken on board another cruise ship, the Endeavour.

No injuries have been reported.

 

Coastguards in Britain were today helping to coordinate a rescue operation on the sinking cruise liner.

Rescue operations are being run from the US but Falmouth Coastguard in Cornwall was also involved because cruise liners can lodge search and rescue plans with them.

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MVListingPIX_468x265.jpgSinking... The MV Explorer ship after it hit an iceberg earlier today

 

The liner, called the MV Explorer, is thought to have got into difficulties near the South Shetland Islands, south of Argentina, early this morning.

It is designed to withstand Antarctic conditions and is thought to have starting sinking after hitting something "significant".

The liner was listing at 25 degrees, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which was informed of the accident at just before 6am today.

The nationalities of the holidaymakers on the liner, who would have paid thousands for their trip around the Antarctic Peninsula, are not yet known.

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RescueShipL_468x282.jpgOne of the rescue boats on its way to save the 154 passengers stranded on board the Explorer

 

Andy Cattrell, watch manager from Falmouth Coastguard, said they had good communication links in the area and were passing information to America for them to pass on to Argentina.

He told BBC News that everyone on board bar two crew members had been evacuated into lifeboats and had been rescued.

He said: "It has hit something significant certainly because this vessel is designed to operate in these areas. It is an old vessel - built in 1969, I believe - but it is a very well-constructed vessel designed to be down there."

He continued: "We know from the American coastguards and the Argentine coastguards that are running it that there are 154 persons on board - 100 passengers, 54 crew - all abandoned into lifeboats apart from the master and chief officer."

According to reports, four US vessels were only 90 minutes away and the operation was coordinated from the US Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia.

The Americans have not so far called in help from other countries, Mr Cattrell said. He added: "There seems to have been quite an orderly abandonment of the ship.

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ExplorerL_468x223.jpgThe sinking ship: MV Explorer ship was carrying 154 passengers (pictured on an earlier trip)

 

"The nearest military staff that will be down that way will be in the Falkland Islands but that is still too far away to help."

The MCA said it was told at 5.24am today of the incident involving the Liberian-flagged 2,400-tonne vessel Explorer.

MCA spokesman Mark Clark said: "There was a lot of ice in the area, but the vessel was built to withstand ice." Forecasters said it is now late spring in the area and the temperature would be around minus 5C today in the air, but 1C in the sea.

Stephen Davenport, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It wouldn't take long for hypothermia to set in at that kind of temperature in the sea." The MV Explorer is one of the best-known specialist cruise ships in the world and is built to withstand these type of conditions.

It pioneered the market for Antarctic tours, which also take in South Atlantic highlights such as the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

The vessel is owned by Toronto-based company Gap Adventures.

One of the British tour companies that offers holidays on the MV Explorer is Noble Caledonia, based in Belgravia, London.

But its customer relations executive Julian Hartley said today that his company had not booked any Britons on this particular trip.

He said: "We have people booked on trips on the MV Explorer for the coming weeks and we are now busy contacting them."

Typically, holidaymakers on the MV Explorer pay £4,500 per person for a trip that involves flights to and from Buenos Aires and then connecting flights to the port of Ushuaia on the tip of Argentina.

From there, the MV Explorer sails to the Antarctic Peninsula, with trips lasting around eight days.

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'Titanic' terror of Britons saved in Antarctic rescue after cruise ship struck iceberg

 

by DAVID WILLIAMS and NEIL SEARS - More by this author » Last updated at 09:31am on 24th November 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (30)

Scores of frightened passengers shivered in lifeboats for two hours yesterday after their cruise ship was holed by ice off the Antarctic and started sinking.

 

Twenty-four Britons were among those forced to abandon ship in temperatures of -5c.

 

Surrounded by Titanic-style images – jagged blocks of ice lapped by icy waters and the listing vessel containing their belongings – they huddled together for warmth.

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explorerAP2411_468x420.jpgEntombed by ice: Hours after the rescue, the Explorer has turned on to its side as plunding tempratures turn the sea into a freezing mass

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ExplororTiltREX_468x221.jpgSinking... The MV Explorer ship after it hit an iceberg

 

explorerAP2411_468x351.jpgSurvivors: Rescuers help passengers of life rafts and onto land

 

The 85 passengers were halfway through a £5,600 19-day Antarctic holiday on the 2,400-ton Explorer when it was hit by a block of ice, believed to have broken from an iceberg.

The vessel is built to withstand the impact of floating ice but somehow a fist-sized hole opened up and at 5.24am an emergency call was put out and the captain decided to abandon her.

Leaving all belongings behind, the passengers put on lifejackets and windcheaters and were directed into eight lifeboats and four liferafts which were then lowered slowly over the sides.

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ShipArielR_468x330.jpgGoing down... the ship begins to sink under water

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Some spoke, others remained silent, scanning the bleak horizon for the rescue ships they were told were on their way.

When they appeared, the relief was enormous.

Some pointed, one man waved jubilantly, huge smiles replaced anxious blank stares.

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cruisemapDM2311_468x527.jpg2007/11_03/cruisemapDM2311_711x800.jpg

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InTheLifeboats2REX_468x236.jpgRescuers collect the passengers

 

Wildlife photographer Michael Nolan, 46, captured the remarkable scene from one of two ships which answered the emergency call. "As we arrived we could see the Explorer was listing heavily," he said.

"The passengers were all in either open lifeboats or inflatables and shaking with the cold."

Describing the moments before the leaving the Explorer, he said: "Our crew members were called together and briefed, the medical staff prepared the lounge for possible cases of extreme hypothermia.

"Piles of blankets were prepared, chefs were on standby with hot meals, soups, and beverages while the lounge was made into an emergency reception area.

"As we approached, the weather was calm but the wind started to build. We were concerned for the people with the extreme cold mounting.

"We didn't know how much time each guest had to prepare to abandon ship, whether they had all the necessary clothing and equipment or not.

"Open life boats can be severely tested here in Antarctica by ice, winds, and of course near-freezing waters."

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Explorer1REX_468x271.jpgDrama at sea: The stricken vessel

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BoatIceburgREX_468x251.jpgMore than 150 passengers, including 23 Britons, had to be rescued after their cruise liner hit an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean

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Explorer2REX_468x696.jpgStricken: The MV Explorer ship after it hit an iceberg

 

It took an hour to transfer everyone to the safety of the the Norwegian cruiser Nordnorge, which had diverted to the scene in the Bransfield Strait, 700 miles south of Cape Horn.

Once on board the passengers, including four Irish, 14 Americans, 12 Canadians, ten Australians, Dutch and Swiss, embraced one another, their ordeal over.

Explorer crew member Andrea Salas, 38, said the passengers had been told through the loud speaker system that the ship had hit ice.

It listed rapidly as water entered, she said, but passengers did not panic and evacuated calmly.

"The sea was a bit rough and there was some wind, but it was not raining or snowing, and the sun had begun to rise, so we had some light."

Captain Arnvid Hansen of the Nordnorge, said he had successfully picked up all the passengers and crew in a rescue lasting one hour, and that they appeared to be in good health.

He said the passengers were cold but not suffering from hypothermia, adding : "The passengers are in our premier lounge having warm food and drying their clothes on board. We are giving them as many clothes as we can."

Last night the Nordnorge was heading for King George Island where the passengers were expected to be flown to a military base in Chile before being transferred to Argentina.

"Everyone is safe and accounted for," said Susan Hayes, of Canadian-based Gap Adventures, which owns the ship.

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BoatDistanceREX_468x325.jpgRescue ship: One of four ships in the area rushed to the scene

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The vessel set out from Ushuaia on Argentina's southern tip on November 11 for a trip through Drake Passage, the body of water that links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is named after Sir Francis Drake.

Fourteen of the Britons were clients of adventure holiday company Explore, of Farnborough, Hampshire.

Managing director Ashley Toft said: "Such incidents are very rare, but shocking when they occur."

It emerged last night the Explorer had five deficiencies in an inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at Greenock in Scotland in May.

These included missing search and rescue plans and lifeboat maintenance problems.

Watertight doors were described as "not as required", and fire safety measures also attracted criticism. A MCA spokesman said they were "not huge problems" and were all rectified.

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