They feared they were going to an icy grave - but the survivors of the Antarctic cruise ship sinking were yesterday all glad to be alive.
Among those who fled the stricken MV Explorerafter she struck an iceberg was a Danish tourist who suddenly proposed to his girlfriend as they sat frozen in their life-raft. Happily, she accepted. And one plucky British survivor, schoolteacher Bryan Hackett, said that despite the "powerful" nature of the experience he was hoping to return to the Southern Ocean in the near future. Others among the 22 British tourists on board have told of the terrifying moment when they realised water was pouring uncontrollably into a cabin on a lower deck - shortly before the captain made the order to abandon ship Experts have revealed, meanwhile, that the 100 passengers and 54 crew only survived the terrifying incident - that had such grim echoes of the Titanic disaster - thanks to unusually calm Antarctic conditions. Aside from the fact that everyone made it back to dry land in one piece, the proposal of Jan Henkel, 42, to girlfriend Mette Larsen, 29, was the happiest story to emerge from the drama that began early on Friday. Mr Henkel had planned to propose marriage when the Explorer arrived in Antarctica - but his plans were thrown into disarray when the ship was crippled by an iceberg. At first he thought their lives might be over, but the couple both made it into a life-raft. And while his entire luggage was left behind, he had the engagement ring with him. He suddenly produced the ring without saying a word. Mr Henkel said: "When she saw the engagement ring, she said, 'Yes, that would be really great!' "I feel wonderful, very pleased to be alive. Everybody was afraid to die, I think. "There were some very frightening moments but the crew was very professional and the captain very good and had everything under control. "On the honeymoon, we will go to a warmer place, I think." English schoolteacher Mr Hackett, 40, from Manchester, said: "I remember the moments just before the impact. I was talking with the captain when everything happened. "I've been through a difficult experience but at the time I didn't panic, I believe we had good leaders. "This was a powerful experience, but I'm thinking of going on a tour of this area in the future." The Explorer sank beneath the waves at 7pm on Friday, around 18 hours after hitting the iceberg. Luckily the seas were unusually calm and other ships were in the area, making a complete rescue possible.