Grounded Cruise Ship Pulled Free in Greenland

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The luxury expedition ship Ocean Explorer, which ran aground in eastern Greenland on Monday, September 11, has been pulled free by a fishing research ship with all 206 passengers and crew well and safe. Local authorities have confirmed the well-being of all aboard, though the incident remains under investigation.

Ocean Explorer Freed After Grounding

After multiple attempts, Ocean Explorer has been successfully freed from being grounded in the mud and sand in a shallow section of the Alpefjord in the southeastern section of Northeast Greenland National Park, approximately 870 miles northeast of Greenland’s capital and largest city, Nuuk.

The luxury expedition ship, operated by Aurora Expeditions, ran aground on Monday, September 11. Despite several attempts to free itself, the ship remained mired in mud, awaiting assistance from additional vessels.

Authorities were notified of the incident, the Joint Arctic Command organized a flyover of the ship to confirm its position and investigate for immediate damage or environmental contamination. Multiple nearby vessels were contacted for assistance, but the challenges of the remote location made it difficult for the ship to be reached.

Ocean Explorer Expedition Cruise Ship
Ocean Explorer Expedition Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Joint Arctic Command)

Fortunately, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resource’s newest fishing research vessel Tarajoq was available and able to assist in pulling Ocean Explorer free in combination with favorable high tides. The ship was loosened on Thursday morning, September 14, a full day before Joint Arctic Command’s inspection vessel Knud Rasmussen was expected to be able to arrive.

A statement from Ocean Explorer‘s owner SunStone said,On Thursday early morning the OCEAN EXPLORER was successfully pulled of the grounding in the East Greenland Fjord. This was done based on a pull from the vessel TARAJOQ and the vessel’s own power. There have not been any injuries to any person onboard, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull.

Tarajoq is a 200-foot (61-meter) ship with an ice-reinforced hull specially designed for working in Arctic waters, permitting the ship to work effectively further north than other vessels.

With a draft of just 21 feet (6.4 meters), Tarajoq can safely operate in very shallow waters. The ship has a crew of 12 and can accommodate up to 20 researchers.

Prior to Ocean Explorer‘s release, local authorities were able to get to the scene for inspection and to ensure that everyone aboard was safe. Other nearby vessels were also alerted to the situation in case their assistance could have proved valuable.

Investigation Underway

Local authorities will be investigating the incident, primarily to determine if any laws were violated that may have led to Ocean Explorer‘s grounding. No charges have yet been made, and any further action will depend on what the investigation may reveal. Both crew members as well as passengers onboard will be interviewed, and other analyses will be made.

At this time, it has been confirmed that there were no injuries onboard related to the incident, as well as no environmental pollution. The ship’s hull remains intact and no onboard systems or safety mechanisms have been compromised.

Ocean Explorer Expedition Cruise Ship
Ocean Explorer Expedition Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Joint Arctic Command)

SunStone added: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.

Hundreds of ships visit remote areas of Greenland every year for stunning scenic cruising in the remote fjords. While larger, mainstream cruise ships are limited to visiting port communities with suitable harbors, smaller expedition ships can get deeper into wilderness areas where guests are astonished by pristine scenery, unique wildlife, and stunning vistas of untouched coasts.

According to SunStone Ships, owner of Ocean Explorer, the ship’s current sailing began on Saturday, September 2 in Kirkenes, Norway, and was scheduled to return to Bergen, Norway on Friday, September 22.

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