Ice patrol ship HMS Endurance has assisted with the rescue of 280 passengers and 50 non-essential crew from a cruise ship damaged off the Antarctic peninsula.
Currently, HMS Endurance is operating in the Antarctic Peninsula in the Erebus and Terror Gulf around James Ross Island. On Wednesday 30 January 2007, on the penultimate day of this season's third work period, she received an urgent call for help and responded without hesitation. The cruise ship MS Nordkapp had sustained damage to her hull as she transited out of Deception Island through Neptunes Bellows and requested the support of Endurance's dive team. Overnight, Endurance made passage up to Deception Island and sent in one of her Lynx helicopters with a liaison team to establish the level of assistance required. The 280 passengers of the Nordkapp are now safe and well and have been transferred to her sister ship the MS Nordnorge for their passage back to Ushuaia in Argentina. The 50 non-essential crew members were temporarily accommodated onboard Endurance before being transferred to Maxwell Bay, South Shetland Islands. Luckily there were no injuries and all aboard were very fortunate. There were lots of shocked people but all were pleased to see the Royal Navy's arrival. The Commanding Officer of HMS Endurance, Captain Nick Lambert, described the passengers as "Pretty upbeat. The cruise ship had done a good job of looking after its passengers and in the end it was a pleasure to help." Endurance's dive team are now investigating the level of damage sustained by the vessel's hull. Current estimates by HMS Endurance's ship's staff onboard Nordkapp indicate a 25m gash along the hull of the vessel which has ruptured several tanks and damaged the hull's outer plating. There is currently a minor fuel leak from a ruptured fuel tank which is being contained by a boom, and Marine Pollution precautions are being taken by Nordkapp. Once the underwater survey has been conducted by Endurance's divers, Det Norske Veritas, the Nordkapp's insurers, will decide what actions are to be taken to ensure her safety and onward passage. On the environmental impact of the fuel leak, Captain Nick Lambert said: "In this hugely sensitive environment even a drop of oil has a major impact and we can't pretend it's not leaking out. But the ship is doing its best to contain the leak with a boom and, luckily, a lot of organisations are now clicking in to help minimise any impact. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to measure any long term effects." Events such as the damage sustained by MS Nordkapp highlight the importance of Endurance's surveying role within the Antarctic. Captain Lambert explained: "This is absolutely the reason we have Endurance. Antarctica is a pristine enivironment and HMS Endurance is a key global change driver. Our work is crucial in understanding global change and climate warming. "Our presence here in Antarctica also enabled us to assist those who visit this area but get into trouble." In light of the growing trend for tourism in Antarctica, where visitor numbers are increasing exponentially from about 2,000 in 1989, to around 12,000 in the year 2000, to more than 35,000 during the 05/06 Austral summer, it is essential that all areas visited by cruise ships are surveyed to a modern standard to provide a safe navigational route in and out of the most popular tourist sites. During her Antarctic work periods Endurance conducts a number of key roles. She supports four of the eight British Antarctic Survey core scientific projects (Global Science in the Antarctic Context) utilising her two Lynx helicopters for load-lifting and the deployment of scientists into the field, and also hydrographic surveying using a state-of-the-art Multi Beam Echo Sounder (MBES). Under the patronage of the Antarctic Treaty, Endurance enables the UK to contribute to the enormous surveying requirement in the many poorly charted areas of the Peninsula. Using her MBES, her surveyors produce extremely accurate, colour coded, three dimensional pictures of the seabed that are converted into modern charts for safer navigation by the many cruise ships that operate in the region. Endurance also routinely deploys her two Survey Motor Boats, fitted with Single Beam Echo Sounders, to conduct shallow water surveys in areas inaccessible to the ship.(MOD) Photo: HMS Endurance's Lynx Helicopter circles overhead the MS Nordkapp. Her sister ship the MS Nordnorge is in the background [Picture: LA(Phot) Kelly Whybrow]