Rogue Wave Hits Viking-Operated Antarctica Cruise Ship

Viking Polaris was hit by a rogue wave while sailing in the Drake Passage. The vessel sustained minor damage, and has since returned to port.

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One person passed away, and four people were injured when a rogue wave hit an expedition cruise ship in the Drake Passage, just south of Cape Horn. The incident happened on Tuesday as the Viking Polaris was making her way to Ushuaia, a well-known homeport for cruises sailing to Antarctica. 

The Drake Passage and the waters around Cape Horn are well known as a dangerous part of the ocean, where waves of 30 feet or more regularly occur. Viking Polaris was launched just a few weeks ago and is sailing her inaugural season in Antarctica. 

Viking Polaris Hit by Rogue Wave

Sailing in the Southern Ocean is not without risks, as one person passed away and four people were injured onboard the Viking Polaris this week. The brand-new expedition cruise ship set sail from Ushuaia in Southern Argentina on November 25 for a cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. 

On her return to her homeport, the ship was hit by a rogue wave on Tuesday, November 29. At the time, the vessel was south of Cape Horn, in the Drake Passage. While there was a storm in the area at the time, according to one guest onboard, the conditions were acceptable at the time.

Viking Octantis Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Viking Cruises

A statement from Viking said the following: “There was a rogue wave incident involving the Viking Polaris on November 29 at 22:40 local time while the ship was sailing towards Ushuaia, Argentina. The ship sustained limited damage during the incident and arrived in port in Ushuaia without further incident the afternoon of November 30.”

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In pictures taken in port, several windows can be seen broken on one of the lower decks, likely the location where the wave hit. The statement continued, stating that the four remaining passengers had sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were being treated onboard by medical professionals:

“It is with great sadness that we confirm a guest passed away following the incident. We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies. We will continue to offer our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead. Four other guests sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident and were treated by the ship’s onboard doctor and medical staff. We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities.”

Viking Cruises Funnel
Photo Credit: Travel Faery / Shutterstock

The cruise line further added that the following cruise, a 10-day Antarctic Explorer cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, has been canceled. Guests booked on that voyage have been notified by Viking or will be informed by their travel advisors.

Expedition Market Booming, But Risks Remain

While rogue waves are extremely rare, storms passing through the Drake Passage are not. The area is well known as one of the most dangerous areas in the world for ships. Although expedition cruises have become more popular lately, the risks of sailing to the area have remained. 

Just two weeks ago, two guests passed away while taking a zodiac cruise around Elephant Island in Antarctica. The expedition cruise ship World Explorer was under charter from Quark Expeditions, one of the most experienced operators in the area, which shows that while beautiful, a cruise to Antarctica is still an expedition, and there are inherent risks associated with going here. 

The next voyage for Viking Polaris will sail on December 17, a 10-day journey to the Antarctic. The 376-passenger, 30,150 gross-tons expedition cruise ship was launched in September this year. The cruise ship is the sister ship to Viking Octanctis, which launched last year and spent the summer sailing in the Great Lakes area.

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