Another expedition ship has run aground in the frigid waters of Antarctica.
Quark Expeditions’ 68-passenger Ocean Nova is stuck in Antarctica’s Marguerite Bay, west of Debenham Island and near the Argentine research station San Martin.
An initial report on the incident released by Quark Expeditions indicates there is no imminent danger to the ship or passengers. “There is no sign of leakage of any kind from the vessel,” the report adds.
The grounding, first reported in the English-language media by travel blogger Jeanne LeBlanc of the Hartford Courant, occurred early today.
The Quark Expeditions report says there are 65 passengers on board the ship, including 21 Americans, 17 Britons, eight Canadians, seven Australians, five South Africans and passengers from more than half a dozen other countries.
The report says the captain of the ice-strengthed Ocean Nova, Per Gravesen, attempted but failed to dislodge the vessel today at high tide, which occurred at around 1:00 PM local time, and is waiting for the next high tide tonight to try again. The report blamed “unfavorable weather conditions” for the failure.
A Spanish naval ship, the Hespedrides, is on the way to the site of the incident, as is another Quark vessel, the Clipper Adventurer. Should the second attempt at dislodging the Ocean Nova fail, Quark says it plans to transfer passengers to the Clipper Adventurer for return to Argentina and home.
The incident comes just two months after another expedition ship, the 84-passenger Ushuaia, ran aground near the entrance to Antarctica’s famed Wilhelmina Bay. The Ushuaia eventually was evacuated before being freed by a Chilean tugboat.
Originally built in 1992 to navigate the ice-choked waters of Western Greenland, the 2,118-ton Ocean Nova is one of several dozen small expedition ships that operate adventure cruises to Antarctica each year during the brief Antarctic summer — the period between November and March when the ice around the continent melts back enough to allow visits.
The often-spartan voyages appeal to well-heeled adventurers from around the globe who pay $4,000 per person or more for the chance to see one of the most remote and untrammeled regions on Earth, and they have grown in popularity in recent years. But several other recent incidents have raised concerns about the trips.
Just last year two expedition vessels, G.A.P. Adventures’ Explorer and Hurtigruten’s Fram, were damaged by icebergs. The Explorer eventually sank.