Cruise ship stuck in Greenland’s icy waters for days

A cruise ship carrying 206 passengers and crew has been stranded in a remote part of Greenland since Monday, after running aground on a muddy seabed. The Ocean Explorer, operated by Australian company Aurora Expeditions, was on a voyage to explore the Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s largest and most northerly national park.

No immediate danger to passengers or environment

According to Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command (JAC), which oversees the area, there were no reported injuries or risk of damage to the environment as a result of the grounding. The JAC said in a statement that it was in contact with the cruise ship and relevant authorities, and that it had dispatched a naval vessel to assist with the rescue operation.

Cruise ship stuck in Greenland’s icy waters for days
Cruise ship stuck in Greenland’s icy waters for days

The JAC also said that it had contacted another cruise ship in the vicinity, and asked it to remain nearby in case of emergency. The other cruise ship was not identified.

The Ocean Explorer ran aground on Monday in Alpefjord, a dramatic and rugged stretch of the national park, known for its icebergs and musk oxen. The ship was unable to free itself, even after the high tide on Tuesday.

Rescue efforts underway

The JAC said that the closest naval vessel, the Knud Rasmussen, was about 1,200 nautical miles (around 2,222 kilometers) away from the Ocean Explorer, and faced a journey of several days to reach the site. The vessel was expected to arrive on Friday morning local time, depending on the weather conditions.

The JAC also said that it would fly over the site as soon as possible, to get fresh images and assess the situation. The JAC said that it took the incident very seriously, but added that there was no immediate danger to human life or the environment.

“As soon as we realized that the Ocean Explorer could not get free on its own, we sent a ship towards the wreck,” Arctic Commander Brian Jensen said. “As soon as possible, we will also fly over the site to get fresh images to help us assess the situation on site.”

The JAC said that the Ocean Explorer might still re-float on its own at high tide, but failing that, the Knud Rasmussen would assist. “No matter what, the most important thing for us is that everyone is safe,” Jensen said.

Passengers in good spirits

According to some passengers on board, who spoke to various media outlets, the atmosphere on the ship was good, and everyone was doing well. They said that they felt a shudder and a scrape when the ship ran aground, but that they were not afraid or panicked.

They also said that they were being entertained by lectures and stories of expeditions by the crew, and that they had access to food and water. They said that they were in contact with their families and friends via satellite phone and email.

Some passengers also said that two people on board had tested positive for Covid-19, and that they had been isolated. They said that no one was in a serious condition, and that they were following health protocols.

The Ocean Explorer is a luxury cruise ship that was built in 2021, and can accommodate up to 134 passengers. It features state-of-the-art technology, sustainability and navigation capabilities, as well as a gym, jacuzzi and off-boat excursions. It was “purpose-built for expedition travel to the world’s most remote destinations,” according to Aurora Expeditions’ website.

The cruise ship departed from Norway on September 1, and was scheduled to end on September 22. The passengers paid up to $33,000 per person for the voyage, according to some reports.

The JAC said that it had informed the Government of Greenland, the Danish Maritime Authority and the Danish Accident Investigation Board of the incident.

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