Saturday, November 24, 2007

Only An Unseaworthy Ship Will Sink.

The M/S Explorer, a Canadian cruise ship, sank after it hit an iceberg in Antarctic waters, 23 Nov 2007. A Norwegian cruise ship rescued everyone aboard.
Someone is not being completely honest about this cruise ship. A hole the size of a fist will not sink a ship, not even the worse rust bucket. This was a Liberian registered vessel. That means it was registered under a flag of opportunity to avoid safety inspections and compliance with the Coast Guard's safety regulations.
Also, ships are deliberately compartmentalized to prevent them from sinking until more than one-third of the living spaces are completely flooded. Did this ship have water tight compartments? Did it have a double bottomed hull?
My ship, USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4) was punctured while I was onboard but not on watch by the underwater projection of an iceberg which was more than 2 miles away on the surface. It ripped open a fuel tank and we lost over 10,000 gallons of fuel. And it flooded an engine room. We had free-communications with the sea; but, we dogged the hatch to that compartment and experienced no danger of capsizing or sinking. Ships are designed that way. It is hard to sink a ship. A hole the size of a fist would not sink a ship. Even if you do not seal off the compartment, a standard bilge pump could easily pump out the volume of sea water entering through the fist size hole.
Was the M/S Explorer equipprd with bilge pumps? Were they working? What was the pumping capacity of one of the bilge pumps? Even the smallest bilge pump would be capable of pumping out the amount of sea water that could be expected to enter the ship through a hole the size of a man's fist.
Moreover, most ships have double bottoms. The iceberg would have to be shaped like a battering ram to penetrate both bulkheads and flood the compartment. Even then, because of the compartmentilization of the ship she would not sink. Even if disabled, and badly listing to one side, the ship would stay afloat indefinitely. It would not sink.


M/V Explorer launched 1969.
Sank in Antarctica 23 Nov 2007.
About 2400hrs (Midnight) 22 Nov M/V Explorer hit an iceberg or bergie bit causing fist-sized hole in hull.
About 0015 hrs 23 Nov ship hit an ice floe causing a crack in the hull spanning several compartments. This was the second collision. This was most likely a stress fracture. If you apply pressure on an area of the hull under great stress, it will crack like an egg shell. In such a case the hull and the bulkheads will open up like a ripe watermellon.

About 0030 hrs M/V Explorer made International Distress Call. (MayDay, MayDay) An Argentine Rescue and Command Center picked up the distress call amid reports the ship was taking on water despite efforts to use onboard pumps. (This was according to Capt. Juan Pablo Panichini, an Argentine navy spokesman.)

0230 hrs Flooding shorts-out all electrical power.
0300 hrs 23 Nov Captain, Bengt Witman, gives order to abandon ship. All 91 passengers take to life boats, and 13 Officers remain onboard with the Capt.
0500 hrs Captain and 13 officers abandon ship.
1100 hrs M/V Nordnorge begins rescuing passengers from the water.
Water temperature is 33 Degrees (Fahrenheit), or 2 Degrees (Centigrade). Water freezes at 32 Degrees Fahrenheit.
2000 hrs (800 PM) 23 November 2007 M/V Explorer sinks beneath the frigid waters with thousands of gallons of fuel and oil. The first Antarctic ecological tragedy.

The Guardian reported that inspections this year found 11 deficiencies
in the ship, including missing search-and-rescue plans and
lifeboat-maintenance problems. Lloyd's List reported the Explorer had
five deficiencies in its last inspection in May, including watertight
doors that were not as required.

The M/S Explorer sank in a matter of hours. That can mean only one thing. The ship was not seaworthy. It was unsafe and had no business carrying passengers for hire. It was a liability.
Someone is trying to limit their liability with these false stories about a hole the size of a fist, and othersuch nonsense.
The Norwegian vessel, Nordnorge, picked up 154 people - all the passengers and crew of the cruise ship M.S. Explorer. It supposedly hit an ice floe before dawn on Friday and immediately began taking on water. There were 13 American tourists onboard. Incidents of this nature are sure to become more common in the Arctic as global warming makes the Northwest Passage more accessible.

An order to abandon ship was sounded after the Canadian ship began listing sharply, and everyone boarded lifeboats and inflatable rafts.

The captain of the Norwegian ship said the passengers and crew were cold and wet but in good condition despite spending four hours in icy, windswept seas off the South Shetland Islands. By Friday evening, several hours after the rescue operation was complete, the stricken Explorer disappeared beneath the Antarctic waves.

The rescue ship landed the Explorer's crew and passengers on nearby King George Island, despite delays caused by high winds and seas. They are staying at Chilean and Uruguayan military stations on the island, and will be flown to Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland as soon as weather conditions permit.

A Canadian adventure company owned the sunken vessel, which had been on a 19-day tour of the Antarctic and the Falklands.

Passengers came from more than a dozen countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Less than a year ago, M.S. Nordnorge was involved in another Antarctic rescue. The Norwegian cruise ship evacuated 294 passengers after another ship from the same cruise company, M.S. Nordkapp, ran aground on a remote Antarctic island. The Nordkapp was later refloated.

The British luxury passenger liner Titanic sank on April 14-15, 1912, en route to New York City from Southampton, Eng., during its maiden voyage. The vessel sank with a loss of about 1,500 lives at a point about 400 miles (640 km) south of Newfoundland.

The great ship, at that time the largest and most luxurious afloat, was designed and built by William Pirrie's Belfast firm Harland and Wolff to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route. It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into 16 presumably watertight compartments. Because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, it was considered unsinkable. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg; five of its watertight compartments were ruptured, causing the ship to sink at 2:20 AM April 15. Inquiries held in the United States and Great Britain alleged that the Leyland liner Californian, which was less than 20 miles (32 km) away all night, could have aided the stricken vessel had its radio operator been on duty and thereby received the Titanic's distress signals. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters.

Many of those who perished on the ship came from prominent American, British, and European families. Among the dead were the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus and Astor fortunes. The glamour associated with the ship, its maiden voyage, and its notable passengers magnified the tragedy of its sinking in the popular mind. Legends arose almost immediately around the night's events, those who had died, and those who had survived. Heroes and heroines, such as American Molly Brown, were identified and celebrated by the press. The disaster and the mythology that has surrounded it have continued to fascinate millions.

As a result of the disaster, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was called in London in 1913. The convention drew up rules requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person embarked (the Titanic had only 1,178 boat spaces for the 2,224 persons aboard); that lifeboat drills be held during each voyage; and, because the Californian had not heard the distress signals of the Titanic, that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch. The International Ice Patrol also was established to warn ships of icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes.

On Sept. 1, 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was found lying upright in two pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of about 4,000 m (about 13,000 feet). The ship, located at about 41° 46' N 50° 14' W, was subsequently explored several times by manned and unmanned submersibles under the direction of American and French scientists. The expeditions found no sign of the long gash previously thought to have been ripped in the ship's hull by the iceberg. The scientists posited instead that the collision's impact had produced a series of thin gashes as well as brittle fracturing and separation of seams in the adjacent hull plates, thus allowing water to flood in and sink the ship. In subsequent years marine salvagers raised small artifacts and even a 20-ton piece of the hull from the wreckage.


ichbinalj said...

More than 150 passengers and crew escaped unhurt after being evacuated by lifeboat on Friday from the ship Explorer that hit ice off King George Island in Antarctica.

"I'm so relieved, I'm happy that everyone made it off the ship, because it could have been a big disaster," said Eli Charne, 38, of California, his voice halting with emotion.

"It's certainly nice to be on the way home now. I'm just really glad to be around still," Charne, wearing borrowed clothing and carrying a life jacket from the ship, told Reuters.

Charne and 153 other passengers and crew climbed into lifeboats and drifted some six hours in calm waters. A Norwegian passenger boat picked them up and took them to Chile's Antarctic Eduardo Frei base.

There they were fed, clothed and checked by a doctor as they waited to be flown to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Late on Saturday, after a delay caused by winds and dropping visibility, a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft left for Punta Arenas with some of the Explorer's occupants aboard.

ichbinalj said...

I thought the ship was going down," Charne recalled of the moments after he felt the ship hit the ice. "We were on the lowest deck of the ship, so we rushed out of the room and pressed the emergency button as water rushed in."

The 38 year old ship, which offered two-week cruises around Antarctica at a cost of some $8,000 (4,000 pounds) per cabin, sank hours after the passengers and crew were evacuated.

Smaller than most cruise ships, the Explorer, built in 1969 and refitted in 1993, was able to enter narrower bays off the continent and scientists were on board to brief passengers on the region's geology and climate change, a G.A.P. spokesman said.

The growing number of tourists landing in Antarctica, mainly from cruise ships, has raised fears over the impact it could have on the continent's fragile ecology.

Another issue is the size and type of vessels operating in dangerous southern waters and the potential for an environmental and human disaster if a large ship should sink in Antarctic seas.

King George Island lies about 700 miles south of Cape Horn, the tip of South America, and is the largest of the South Shetland islands.

ichbinalj said...

PASSENGERS aboard the M/S Explorer told of their “Titanic moment” when they were set adrift in darkness in lifeboats and rubber dinghies after the ship was holed below the water line.

The passengers, including 13 Americans and 24 Britons, were left to huddle together for warmth as they floated for five hours in sub-zero temperatures in the frozen wastes of the Antarctic ocean, not knowing when they would be rescued.

At one point the flooded engines of the Explorer roared back into life and the vessel, by now listing at 45 degrees, began to churn the water as it moved backwards in a circular motion perilously close to them.

The passengers countered their fear by cracking jokes about the original Titanic disaster in 1912 when the world’s biggest passenger liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank with the loss of 1,490 lives.

ichbinalj said...

Bob Flood, 52, a scientific journal editor and ornithologist from the Scilly Isles who had joined the £4,000-a-head cruise to give lectures about birds such as the albatross and the storm petrel, said: “We didn’t panic because we knew there must be other cruise ships in the area. The bizarre thing was that people began to tell Titanic jokes.”

It was just after midnight on Friday when the starboard bow of Explorer, a 30-year-old veteran of Antarctic cruises on a trip to retrace the steps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Anglo-Irish polar explorer, collided with a dagger-shaped ice floe just below its water line.

The stiletto-sharp ice tore through the ship’s steel bulkhead into one of the cabins. Passengers were awoken by the crash and by ice-cold water gushing in. They rushed to the upper decks to sound the alarm.

ichbinalj said...

Andrea Salas, a guide on the cruise which had left Ushuaia in her native Argentina 12 days earlier, said: “I was in the ship’s bar having a drink with colleagues and some passengers when two passengers from the cabins below came in shouting, ‘There’s water, there’s water!’ ”

Crewmen struggled for an hour to strip walling and insulation from the cabin to reach the foot-wide hole but water poured down a 2in-wide scupper pipe used to remove condensation from the cabin. It flooded the engines below and there was a power cut, knocking out the bilge pumps which had been clearing the water from the hull.

ichbinalj said...

Peter Svensson, the Explorer’s first officer, said: “In the water we tried to cover the hole — we managed it at first but then we got a small blackout and the water started coming in more.”

As the Explorer began to list at 25 degrees, an order was given to abandon ship.

Raymond King, 67, on holiday from Belfast, said: “It was pretty horrific. It was wet, it was cold, it was scary. I’ve got the clothes I am wearing, my watch, my camera and that’s it.”

The 2,400-ton vessel’s Mayday messages were picked up by two other liners, the Nordnorge and the Endeavour, and by a Brazilian warship. They took five hours to reach the scene as a Chilean navy helicopter hovered overhead and coastguards from Falmouth in Cornwall co-ordinated the rescue with their counterparts in Argentina and the United States.

The Nordnorge used its own lifeboat as a “lift”, lowering and raising it to bring the 91 passengers, nine expedition staff and 54 crew of the Explorer aboard 10 at a time from their four lifeboats and eight dinghies.

The operation took half an hour. Three of the passengers were suffering from hypothermia and had to be clad in thermal blankets and fed hot drinks until they recovered.

Those rescued were then dropped at two Antarctic bases, one Chilean and one Uruguayan, a few hundred yards apart. Some were flown to Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland aboard a Chilean air force Hercules aircraft.

The M/S Explorer finally sank to the icy depths yesterday, 75 miles north of Antarctica.

ichbinalj said...

The Guardian reported that inspections this year found 11 deficiencies in the ship, including missing search-and-rescue plans and lifeboat maintenance problems. Lloyd's List reported the Explorer had five deficiencies in its last inspection in May, including watertight doors that were not as required.

Doris said...

Fluke of nature that it was calm? I believe it was more like the grace of God.. amen!!

VikingONE said...

Unknown contributing factors are what grades of steel were used in the hull. Most ship side plates are made of Grade A steel which is susceptible to brittle fracture below 50 F. The puncture may have created a stress riser resulting in a phenomenon known as ductile to brittle crack propagation.

I was in Antarctica on the Discovery in January 2007. While we were there our plans to visit Deception Island were altered because the Nordkapp ran aground. The same ship that rescued the Nordkapp, the Nordnorge, also rescued the Endeavor.

In 2010 new SOLAS safety at sea standards will apply to these passenger ships. It will be interesting to see how many old buckets are still plying their way through Drake passage after the new standards apply.

We hit a small iceberg during the night that knocked the flower vase off the night table. I have never stopped wondering if the collision didn't at least dent the hull. I thought the Discovery was a well built ship though, and having been built in Germany most likely used steel which was at least consistent in quality.

We saw one large passenger ship in narrow channel along the Antarctic Peninsula. It held about 2000 passengers; too many to land. Given these are the same waters where the Endeavor sank, I wonder how much thought has been given to such a large rescue should one be needed.

Eli Charne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli Charne said...

I'm putting my personal account of what happend that evening online. It is available on my blog at


Eli Charne