Monday, August 30, 2010

Stranded Cruise Ship Passengers Evacuated

Passengers stranded nearly 48 hours on a cruise ship in Canada’s arctic are expected to evacuate to Edmonton early Monday, says the vice-president of the tour company. “Reports from the ship have all been that the passengers have been exceptionally positive,” Cedar Bradley-Swan said Sunday. “We’ve had great weather. It’s been about 12 C so there have been lots of folks out on deck.” The Clipper Adventurer operated by Mississauga, Ont.-based Adventure Canada became grounded on an uncharted rock shortly after 7 p.m. local time Friday. The ship ran aground in three metres of water just a day before the Arctic expedition was to come to an end in Edmonton. About 200 guests and crew members were on the trip called “Into the Northwest Passage.” No one on the ship was injured. According to the company, the sea was calm at the time, visibility was good, it was sunny and there was no wind or swell. Jean-Pierre Sharp, a coast guard officer with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., said the incident happened about 55 nautical miles east of Coppermine, Nunavut, also known as Kugluktuk, near the border with the Northwest Territories. “There’s no immediate danger, no pollutants or anything like that,” Sharp said. “It’s just a question of getting the people off and for the company to arrange some salvage or something to try and tow the vessel off the ground.” Adventure Canada said efforts to dislodge the chartered vessel during high tide Saturday were unsuccessful and that it is sitting with a slight list but is stable. It will now be up to the company that owns the ship to pull it off the rock, said Bradley-Swan. About 70 crew members will remain on the Clipper Adventurer for now, said Bradley-Swan. The Canadian Coast Guard helped evacuate the ship’s remaining passengers Sunday afternoon, ferrying them by barge and Zodiac to a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker called the Amundsen.
Clipper Adventurer
“The barge takes 12 (people) and the Zodiac takes eight, so we’re moving about 20 people at a time,” Bradley-Swan said. “Then we’re using our fleet of about 10 Zodiacs on board (the Clipper Adventurer) to move everybody’s luggage.” All passengers were expected to be evacuated to the Amundsen by about 6 p.m. Sunday. Then that ship will carry them about 60 miles to Kugluktuk, Nunavut, a trip that should take about six hours, Bradley-Swan said. From there, the group will catch a charter airline flight into Edmonton on Monday morning. The tour was originally supposed to end in Edmonton at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday. Roughly half a dozen of the passengers on the tour are from Edmonton, said Bradley-Swan. The rest are mainly Canadian, although a few are from Europe and the United States, she said. Adventure Canada runs between three and seven Arctic expeditions each year. The learning-travel packages include cultural experiences, natural history and wildlife viewing. The “Into the Northwest Passage” trip included about 20 staff — scientists, biologists, authors, historians, painters — that offered lectures during the tour. According to the company’s website, the Clipper Adventurer is 90 metres in length and features a library, gymnasium, sauna and beauty salon. The tour flew out of Toronto and then left Greenland by cruise ship Aug. 14, Bradley-Swan said. “We’ve been making our way up the Greenlandic coast, over to Baffin, Lancaster Sound — essentially following the traditional Northwest Passage route,” she said. “They had travelled 2,655 miles and had 60 miles left to go. They had even done their last expedition stop and were now heading back to the airport, essentially.”

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