A US passenger on an Antarctic cruise died and four other guests were injured after the Viking Polaris vessel was struck by a giant unexpected wave while crossing the Drake Passage heading for Ushuaia in Argentine Tierra del Fuego province.
The passenger killed was a U.S. citizen, a State Department spokesperson confirmed, but no name was released. We are offering all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment, the spokesperson said.
Four other guests sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident and were treated by the ship's doctor and medical staff, the Swiss based company.
We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities, Viking said in a statement on Thursday. Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel.
The ship sustained limited damage from the giant wave and arrived in Ushuaia on Wednesday without further incident, Viking said. Images taken of the docked ship showed several damaged windows.
Passengers on board the ship described choppy conditions leading up to the incident. Suzie Gooding, of North Carolina, said that at the time, the ship was going through the Drake Passage, which is well-known for having turbulent seas.
The ship is docked in Ushuaia as passengers await further travel plans from Viking, according to Gooding, who said that two other ships in their bay in Ushuaia were also damaged, possibly by rogue waves.
The Viking Polaris ship's next departure for the Antarctic, scheduled for Dec. 5, has been canceled after careful consideration, the cruise line said.
Extreme storm waves, also identified as 'rogue' waves are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves and are very unpredictable, according to the National Ocean Service.
The Norwegian flagged Viking Polaris is an ice-strengthened Polar Class 6 vessel with a longer hull, straight bow, and state-of-the-art fin stabilizers to provide the calmest possible journeys in remote regions. The u-tank stabilizers will significantly decrease rolling when the ship is stationary. The hull is built at Vard Tulcea in Romania. Vard Tulcea has also partly outfitted the ship.
Viking Polaris” is the second expedition cruise ship built by Fincantieri for owner Viking Cruises. Like her twin sister, Viking Octantis, the 30,000 ton ship can accommodate 646 guests on board in 189 cabins.