HMS Endurance has located the wreck of the cruise liner M/S Explorer, which sank in Antarctic waters last year, reported the Royal Navy ice patrol ship.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office requested HMS Endurance to undertake a search for the wreck of the Explorer to ascertain its position, assess the likely condition of the vessel on the seabed and observe any ongoing fuel seepage or other evidence of pollution. After an initial unsuccessful search earlier this month, Endurance re-visited the area and carried out a systematic search of an area ten kilometers by five using a Multibeam echo sounder. The seabed in the search area was flat and featureless, but a contact was detected at a range of 4373m from the reported sinking position of the vessel. When compared to the reported sinking position of M/S Explorer this was broadly consistent with the direction of the prevailing current. The wreck's position is at the north-west end of the Bransfield Strait, and was located at a depth of approximately 1130 meters. The actual location is at 620 24.2929' south 570 11.7748' west. It was judged that the depth of the wreck showed that it presented no hazard to shipping. Apart from the oil slick, no debris was seen in the water and no debris was observed on any of the land in the vicinity of the wreck visited by personnel from HMS Endurance. HMS Endurance is currently undertaking hydrographic survey and mapping work; providing support to the scientific work of the British Antarctic Survey and carrying out other tasking to deliver the UK's responsibilities under the Antarctic Treaty. The charting work contributes to the safety of shipping in the Antarctic region - work of particular significance with the increasing number of cruise liners visiting in the Antarctic. HMS Endurance herself went to the assistance of a cruise liner - the M/S Nordkapp - when that ship struck a rock and was holed early last year. And in November, the M/S Explorer hit ice and sank – luckily without loss of life. FCO and Ministry of Defence consider that finding M/S Explorer has highlighted the wider role and primary purpose of HMS Endurance in supporting the aims and principles of the Antarctic Treaty system. "I am very proud of my survey team who are operating our world class system at the edges of its performance. The Royal Navy continues to support UK responsibility to the Antarctic Treaty by surveying and charting the difficult waters of Antarctica to improve safety for all mariners", said the Royal Navy ice patrol Commanding Officer Captain Bob Tarrant. In related news it was confirmed both in Argentina and the Falkland Islands that HMS Endurance will not be calling in Ushuaia as announced a few weeks ago. From Argentina Osvaldo Hilliart president of the Malvinas War Veterans Association said that the British vessel will not visit Ushuaia. When the news first was made public Hilliart was quoted by Argentina's official news agency Telam saying that "the arrival of the vessel is irritating for the (1982) Malvinas veterans". "It's very unpleasant to see the vessel here, it's an insult to the veterans and those fallen in the war. If an Argentine man-o-war attempts a tactical call in the Malvinas the English would sink her. And we're going to render them honors" underlined Hilliart. In the Falklands, vessel suppliers said big orders had been placed locally by HMS Endurance since "the vessel was cancelling its scheduled visit to Ushuaia".
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