Friday, November 23, 2007

Sinking Ship


The M/S Explorer—the Little Red Ship—is sinking, or perhaps has already sunk. Near Antarctica.

That's GAP's ship! I went on the inaugural GAP Antarctica expedition, which revolutionized the region for backpackers and budget travelers. That was before they bought the Explorer, so I wasn't actually on this ship. My expedition was on a rent-a-ship, a cruise run by Quark Expeditions.

According to my GAP brochure, this should have been right after the South Georgia section of the "Spirit of Shackleton" itinerary, which ends on Nov. 29. So the tourists would have been following in the footsteps of Shackleton, heading from South Georgia to Antarctica.

Astute readers familiar with the story of Shackleton will remember that he too lost his ship.

GAP does strive for accuracy.

10 comments:

Marie said...

Here is GAP's statement.

Marie said...

Check out these photos of the rescue operation. Ugh, that would suck to be stuck out in open seas in little boats and zodiacs. And all of the passengers would have lost their possessions, probably only had pocket-sized cameras, passports, and money.

Steven R. Stahl said...

I was thinking that those passengers must have a real love for adventure, to be going down to Antarctica around Thanksgiving, but then it occurred to me that Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not a Western civilization one. So, they were being adventurous and wound up with more adventure than they planned on, and had reason to give thanks, Americans or not.

SRS

Marie said...

I was thinking that given that all ended well, it might have been kind of exciting.

But that might just be totally ignorant.

I wonder how this will impact GAP, the tour operator.

Marie said...

Fantastic photo here.

Steven R. Stahl said...

For anyone interested in GAP’s (mis)fortunes, the ship incident will apparently be a developing story. See http://www.inthenews.co.uk/news/autocodes/countries/antarctica/explorer-failing-in-key-areas-$1170970.htm The captain was said to be as skilled as anyone in the business. At least no one died.

I would think that, strictly from the P.R. standpoint, this incident would he easier to handle than, say, an infection overcoming hundreds of passengers on a cruise ship, with an evacuation, hospitalizations, legal claims, etc., following. In cases of infection, though, the ship doesn’t have to be salvaged or replaced.

SRS

Marie said...

Textbook evacuation
By David Osler - Friday 23 November 2007


IT WAS not a 21st century re-run of the Titanic, albeit at the South rather than the North Pole. When the Explorer hit an object — probably an iceberg — in the Antarctic today all 154 passengers and crew were rapidly and efficiently evacuated.

Everything went according to plan, with Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency co-ordinating the efforts of its Argentine and US counterparts.

In some ways you could argue that this was textbook stuff, so congratulations are due all round. On the other hand, Lady Luck is also entitled to take a bow.

The sinking occurred during good weather conditions. Had that state of affairs not obtained, things would have been — at a minimum — rather more complicated.

It is worth noting that the lifeboats into which 154 passengers and crew decanted were open. That might be fully in accordance with the regulations, but it is not ideal for a cruiseship serving the part of the world which Explorer did, as the last port state control inspector to give the vessel a once-over pointed out.

This should provide food for thought at the International Maritime Organization once Albert Embankment is back in action after its refit. Moreover, a cursory glance at the database reveals that that deficiencies were discovered in both of the vessel’s most recent run-ins with port state inspections.

No one is suggesting that the vessel was not basically well-found. But it is clear that operator GAP Shipping has room for improvement.

Importantly, Explorer had not lodged its search and rescue co-operation plan with the MCA at Falmouth. The importance of undertaking steps such as this — annoyingly bureaucratic as they sometimes seem — was certainly underlined by today's dramatic events.

Linda said...

All that fuel going into the water can't be good for the marine animals.

Steven R. Stahl said...

The “Today’s Papers” section at www.slate.com mentioned that GAP’s customers paid from $7,000 to $16,000 for the Antarctica trip. That seems like a wide price range---maybe it isn’t?—but in any case, I’d think that the customers will be asking for partial refunds. If you can lay out that much cash for a trip—I could, but I certainly wouldn’t—how much do you think that the excitement of the evacuation and being able to point to the front page of the NYT or Post and say, “See? I was on that ship when it sank!” are worth?

SRS

Marie said...

Let's see... the cheapest berth was $6470 plus $300 local payment. The most expensive was $15,190 plus $300. So that's about right. The cheapest is lower triple, while the expensive is "Salon."

When I went, it was way cheaper, but this is a 19-day itinerary, almost 2x as long as the Classic Antarctica one I was on.

Interestingly, the NYTimes article said that the ship had a reinforced bottom but not a strengthened hull. Here in the GAP catalog, it says the ship had "double, ice-hardened hull ice rating 1A1 ice A."

Which means... something.

The Times article also said GAP had never had any problems with their ships before.

Um, they have exactly ONE ship and they'd owned it less than three years.

And Shackleton never lost a man, at least not if you don't count the Aurora.