THE HAGUE, April 11, 2012 (AFP) - Some 70 tourists are stranded on board a Dutch polar exploration ship at South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic after the ship experienced a partial engine failure, its owner said Wednesday. The Plancius was lying under anchor off a pier in a bay outside South Georgia's small port of Grytviken -- a former whaling station and now a popular stop-off spot for cruise ships visiting Antarctica, Mark van der Hulst said. "The ship is anchored off a pier in South Georgia after suffering partial loss of her engine. She is safe and sound and there is no danger for passengers," Van der Hulst of Oceanwide Marine Services told AFP. "She is waiting for another passenger ship to pick them up and bring them to Montevideo, from where they will be flown home," he added. The 89-metre (291 feet) long Plancius was then expected to make her way under own steam to Montevideo for an inspection, said Van der Hulst.
Dutch tour operator Inezia, who organises the Atlantic Odyssey tours mainly as a bird-watching expedition, said the ship experienced engine trouble on Tuesday afternoon after first leaving the Argentinian port of Ushuaia on March 29. "It had visited Antarctica and was on its way through the Atlantic to the Cape Verdean islands," Inezia's owner Pieter van der Luit said. He said the tourists on board were mainly Dutch and from the United States, had plenty of provisions and were in no danger. Both Van der Hulst and Van der Luit confirmed a second ship had been arranged to fetch the stranded tourists but could not say when it would arrive in the British Overseas Territory, some 2,150 kilometres (1,345 miles) east of Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of South America.
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2012 21:49:59 +0100 (MET)
WASHINGTON, Jan 15, 2012 (AFP) - Two strong earthquakes 40 minutes apart rocked the remote South Orkney Islands in Antarctica on Sunday, experts from the US Geological Survey said. The epicenter of the first, a magnitude 6.6 temblor, was at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), some 539 kilometers (334 miles) west of Coronation Island, the USGS said. No destructive tsunami was created, according to a US-based warning center.
The first quake occurred at 1340 GMT. About 40 minutes later the region was struck by an aftershock measured at 6.2. A second 5.1-magnitude aftershock occurred at around 1640 GMT, USGS said later. The South Orkney Islands form a remote archipelago in the Southern Ocean to the northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. An ownership dispute between Britain and Argentina was resolved by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which allowed for any of the 12 signatories to use the islands for non-military purposes.
The British Antarctic Survey staffs a small research station on Signy Island, while Argentina maintains a base on Laurie Island. "There is the small possibility of a local or regional tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than a few hundreds kilometers from the earthquake epicenter," the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. The tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 caused waves that hit an ice shelf in Antarctica 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) away, smashing parts of it into huge icebergs. The largest berg measured about 9.5 by 6.5 kilometers (5.9 by 4.0 miles), making it slightly bigger in surface area than Manhattan, according to the European Space Agency. An early USGS alert Sunday put the depth of the first Antarctica quake at just one kilometer and located it closer to Coronation Island.
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2010 02:54:22 +0100 (MET)
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 7, 2010 (AFP) - A cruise ship carrying 160 people on a return trip from Antarctica lost power in one of its engines Tuesday in rough weather, the Argentine navy said. Crews were later able to fix the problem and the ship was sailing to the world's southernmost city Ushuaia in high seas with its passengers unharmed, it added in a statement. One of the cruise ship's engines had broken down and caused what the navy termed as "serious... handling limitations," but causing no risks to its passengers and crew.
The vessel, described on the Polar Cruises website as a refurbished, ice-strengthened, all-suite luxury cruise ship, telephoned its emergency to a search and rescue coordination center in Ushuaia, 3,200 kilometers (1990 miles) south of Buenos Aires. The engine failure occurred mid-day Tuesday about 845 kilometers (525 miles) south of Ushuaia in the Drake Passage, where the ship faced stormy conditions including winds of 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour. "There are no risks (to passengers or crew)," a navy official told AFP at the time. The Clelia II set sail from Ushuaia on November 30 on a week-long cruise to the Antarctic continent.
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 2009 08:33:24 +0100 (MET)
WELLINGTON, Dec 9, 2009 (AFP) - New rules are needed for tourist ships visiting Antarctica to prevent a disaster in the world's most isolated region, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Wednesday. "I am greatly concerned that unless we take action, there will be a serious maritime casualty involving a tourist vessel in Antarctica, and we will be faced with a humanitarian and environmental disaster," McCully said. A three-day meeting started in Wellington Wednesday of about 80 experts from the 47 Antarctic Treaty countries, aimed at drawing up new regulations for tourist ships visiting Antarctica.
McCully told the meeting that four tourist ships had run aground in the past three years, and 154 people had to be rescued by a nearby vessel after the Canadian-owned Explorer sank after hitting an iceberg in 2007. "We were lucky. No one was lost in that incident, but the fact that there have not been more serious consequences owes more to good luck than good management," he said in a speech. "Clearly, we are on borrowed time." The number of annual visitors in tourist ships has quadrupled to around 46,000 over the last 15 years, and there are concerns some of the ships are not suitable for the extreme conditions.
The meeting is expected to come up with recommendations on the types of ships that can be used in Antarctic waters, and whether they should be required to sail with another ship nearby for safety's sake. Other recommendations will be aimed at ensuring the Antarctic environment remains pristine, including whether to ban the use of heavy fuel oil, which if leaked could have a devastating impact on wildlife. The experts' recommendations will go to a meeting of Antarctic Treaty members in Uruguay in May next year.
Date: Mon, 16 Nov 2009 16:30:29 +0100 (MET) by Alexander Osipovich
MOSCOW, Nov 16, 2009 (AFP) - More than 100 penguin-loving tourists including dozens from Britain are trapped by ice off Antarctica aboard a Russian ice-breaker cruise ship, officials and the tour operator said Monday. The Kapitan Khlebnikov is in a bay near Snow Hill island, located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, and cannot leave as the bay is sealed off with ice, the Russian transportation ministry said.
"The wind has currently slowed down in the area and the massing of the ice has ended. Everything is calm aboard the ice-breaker, nothing is threatening the passengers and crew," the ministry said in a statement. "When the wind changes to a favourable direction, the ice-breaker will head into clear water and on to the port of Ushuaia," at the extreme southern end of Argentina, the ministry predicted. There were 105 passengers aboard the vessel and the total delay in the ship's scheduled trip could be around two days, it added.
The ship has been at its current location for four days, German Kuzin, an official with the Far Eastern Shipping Company, the ship's owner, said in televised remarks. "There's nothing to worry about there," Kuzin said. "To put it plainly, the ship got stuck between an island and an ice massif." Many of the passengers are Britons who paid more than 10,000 pounds (16,700 dollars, 11,200 euros) for a tour whose highlight was seeing emperor penguins on Snow Hill island, according to Exodus, a British tour operator.
Around 50 mostly British passengers booked their tours through Exodus and have been well cared-for while the ship has been stuck, Rob Dixon, a spokesman for Exodus, told AFP by telephone from London. "There's a lot of entertainment on board," Dixon told AFP. He said the weather was improving and predicted the ship would reach Ushaia by the end of this week, two or three days behind schedule. "They've certainly seen the penguins they came to see," Dixon added, noting that passengers had been able to leave the ship by helicopter.
Others aboard the ship included a three-person BBC television crew filming a documentary called "The Frozen Planet," a spokeswoman for the British television network said in London. "Everyone's fit and well, there's no cause for concern, and they're filming today," she said, noting that they were filming emperor penguins for "Frozen Planet," a BBC nature documentary series due to be aired in 2011.
Amenities aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov include a swimming pool, a sauna and a bar operated by a professional bartender, according to the website of US-based tourism firm Quark Expeditions. The ship is "a polar-class icebreaker, combining power and technology with creature comforts," said Quark Expeditions, which leases the ship from Russia's Far Eastern Shipping Company.