Aurora Expeditions’ luxury cruise ship Ocean Explorer has finally been freed after running aground in a Greenland fjord on Monday, 11 September.
Thursday morning, fishing research vessel Tarajoq, of Greenland’s Institute of Nature, successfully pulled the Ocean Explorer off the sand and mud bed it had got stuck on. The combined effort from Tarajoq and the cruise ship’s own power, with the help of the high tide, resulted in the successful escape.
Tarajoq had reached the site Wednesday morning and had made several other attempts at helping Ocean Explorer before finally managing to get the cruise ship afloat again on Thursday morning. Present on the scene was also Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command (JAC) Sirius Sled Patrol, who had been constantly assessing the situation and passenger and crew’s safety and wellbeing.
Had the research vessel not managed to free up the cruise, an inspection vessel, dispatched by JAC, would have only made it to the location Friday evening at the earliest. At the time of the distress signal, the inspection vessel, Knud Rasmussen, was 1,200 nautical miles (about 2,222 km) away from the scene, unfavourable weather further slowing it down.
“The vessel and its passengers will now be positioned to a port where the vessel’s bottom damages can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a port from which they can be flown back home”, the ship’s owner, SunStone revealed in a statement. The exact port where the passengers will be taken is yet unknown.
“There have not been any injuries to any person on board, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull”, SunStone added. “We would like to thank our charterer Aurora Expeditions as well as all their passengers for an excellent cooperation in this unexpected and difficult circumstance.”
The cruise left Norway on 2 September and was supposed to return on 22 September. Despite the seemingly dire circumstances, spirits remained high among the 206 people on board (112 passengers and 94 crew). One guest told CNN affiliate Nine News that her “biggest concern” was running out of alcohol. When that happens, she jokingly pointed out that she might be swimming back to Iceland.
Several passengers were also placed in isolation after being confirmed as infected with Covid-19, but they also remained positive throughout the experience. “Everyone’s in good spirits. It’s a little bit frustrating, but we are in a beautiful part of the world. We’re sitting right near the glacier when we open our window”, Steven Fraser, a retired passenger who got Covid during the cruise, told the Sidney Morning Herald.