Thursday 7 January 2010

Expedition ship damaged in Antarctica accident

Source: Cruise Log with Gene Sloan / USA Today

One of the most elegant expedition ships operating in Antarctica, the Clelia II, has been withdrawn from service this month for repairs following an accident that occurred over Christmas week but is only now coming to light.

[ed: This ship will become Orion II from May 2011. See related story]

New York-based Travel Dynamics International, which operates the 100-passenger vessel, has canceled the ship's voyages through Jan. 18 following the incident, which left one of the ship's propellers damaged.

In a statement released this week, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators says the five-deck ship had arrived at Antarctica's famed Petermann Island on Dec. 26 for a passenger landing when a stronger-than-anticipated current pushed it toward the rocky shoreline.

"Efforts by the officer of the watch to correct the situation failed, and the starboard propeller struck some rocks," the statement says. "The impact ... resulted in the shutdown of the starboard engine and the loss of electrical power aboard ship."

The association says the Clelia II's port engine never lost power and was used to drive Clelia II off the rocks to a safe position about one mile from shore. Another expedition ship sailing just eight miles away, the Corinthian II, arrived on the scene within an hour to assist as the Clelia II's crew examined the vessel for further damage. The Corinthian II, also operated by Travel Dynamics, then escorted the damaged ship on the multi-day journey across the Drake Passage back to its home port of Ushuaia, Argentina.

The ships arrived in Ushuaia on Dec. 30.

It's not uncommon for news of incidents on ships in Antarctica to take several days to reach the outside world due to the remote location.

"At no time during this incident was there a threat to human life," the association says in its statement. A trace amount of oil leaked into the water but dissipated quickly, it adds.

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