Luxury Ship Stuck In Arctic Mud

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A luxury cruise ship carrying more than 200 people is set to be stranded for days in a remote area of Greenland’s Arctic after getting wedged in the muddy seabed. The 206 passengers and crew on board the Ocean Explorer from Australian operator Aurora Expeditions will have to wait until Friday for a rescue ship to arrive, authorities said. The captain of the 104-meter-long vessel initially waited for high tide at midnight to try to float clear. Still, Danish military officials said that the mud — a mix of sediment, silt, and debris left by glaciers — is exerting suction on the ship and may be too hard to break free. A military flight over the ship confirmed its hull appeared intact and no oil had escaped, a spokesman for the Joint Arctic Command told CNN.

Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command said that a fishing boat that the Greenland government owns is scheduled to arrive later Wednesday and will attempt to pull the large vessel out at high tide. It said that a Norwegian cargo ship is also expected to arrive at the scene soon but will have to wait until a favorable high tide. The Arctic Command dispatched the Knud Rasmussen, a patrol ship operated by the Royal Danish Navy. Still, the JAC said the ship would have to travel about 1,400 miles and could be several hours away when the tide is favorable.

The authority said the passengers were not in danger, and the cruise ship wasn’t a threat to the environment. The passengers, primarily from Australia, were on a cruise to see Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and spot wildlife like polar bears and beluga whales in Greenland’s most extensive and northernmost national park. One passenger joked that the ship’s biggest worry is running out of alcohol.

An investigation is underway into how the Ocean Explorer got stuck, and the authorities have asked another cruise ship to stay close by in case of a possible rescue operation. Greenland, a semi-sovereign territory of Denmark in the North Atlantic Ocean, is famous for its rugged landscape and a vast ice cap that covers much of the island.

Aurora Expeditions specializes in polar trips, including a 30-day trip that costs more than $33,000 (A$51,000) per person to view the Arctic’s glaciers and animals. The company says it has a safety record and offers safe and educational experiences. Its website highlights the trips to Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the chance to spot wildlife such as polar bears, beluga whales, and walruses. Aurora Expeditions is based in Sydney. Its website advertises its “unmatched ability to explore the far reaches of Greenland.” CNN’s Janet Ahn contributed to this report.


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