Antarctic Tourist Ship Foundering in Drake Passage
The Antarctic tourist ship Clelia II is making slow headway north of the Shetland Islands, having yesterday lost power and communications in the midst of 30-foot seas in the notorious Drake Passage.
None of the 88 passengers on board, all from the United States, are reported injured; one of the 77 crew members apparently suffered minor injuries.
The ship was slowed in heavy seas after reported thirty to forty foot seas broke windows in its bridge, taking out its communications equipment. It left the Antarctic Peninsula 24 hours ago, headed for a two-day return to port in Ushuaia, Argentina. The ship’s captain reported that in the 159 trips he’d made to the Peninsula he’d “never seen such weather.”
According to reports from Argentine wire service the ship has diminished power and is beating into heavy winds; it was passed by National Geographic Explorer, also returning to Ushuiaia after an Antarctic Peninsula tour, roughly 500 miles south of the tip of South America.
According to an account from a passenger on the Explorer, the Lindblad Expeditions ship passed the Clelia II which was making just one knot per hour, but could not make contact with its crew except by VHF radio.
The Explorer changed course and traveled 16 miles to attempt to aid the stricken ship.
It took two tries by the crew of the Explorer to send a satellite phone via a small “rocket propelled” cannister to the ship. Distress calls went out from the Explorer, which spent most of today standing by. According to a report from Buenos Aires the Clelia II has limited power and though making headway towards South America is hoping seas will calm.
The Chilean navy’s Rescue Coordination Center reported that the Chilean vessel ATF Lautaro was dispatched to the area to aid the cruise ship. However, the head of operations for the Southern Naval Area, Lt. Cmdr. Lucio Lopez, told radio stations that since the Chilean ship is 18 hours from the Clelia II.
One year ago – December 26, 2009 – the same ship, chartered by New York-based Travel Dynamics International, ran aground along the Antarctic Peninsula, its starboard propeller hitting the rocks resulting in the shutdown of the starboard engine and loss of electrical power aboard the ship. Another tourist ship, the Corinthian II, was nearby and helped pull it off the rocks.
According to its website, the 290-foot Clelia II was launched in 2009 as an Antarctica and Arctic tourist ship, after extensive refurbishment, redecoration and other improvements. It is billed as a “private yacht-like cruise ship (which) accommodates only 100 guests in 50 suites, each of which affords ocean views, measures 215 square feet or more and is appointed with a sitting area or separate living room, twin or queen-size beds, spacious closets, air conditioning.”