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The MS Explorer was a cruise ship (MS stands for motor ship). It had been known as MS Lindblad Explorer (–1985) and MS Society Explorer (–1992). It was registered in Liberia. It was designed for sailing in cold areas, such as around Antarctica. The MS Explorer was originally ordered by the Swedish explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad. The ship was sold several times. Its last owner was the Toronto-based travel company G.A.P Adventures. It had bought the Explorer in 2004.
Besides being the first cruise ship ever built specifically to ply the frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean, the Explorer became the first ever to sink there when it struck an unidentified submerged object, possibly ice, on November 23 2007 which caused a 10 by 4 inch (25 × 10 cm) gash in the hull. Everyone escaped from Explorer in the early hours of November 23 2007 after taking on water near the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean, which is usually stormy, but was calm at the time. The Explorer was confirmed by the Chilean Navy to have sunk at approximately position: 62 degrees 24 minute South and 57 degrees 16 minutes west, between South Shetlands and Grahams Land, in the Bransfield Strait, where the depth is roughly 2000 feet (600 m).
Commissioned by Lars-Eric Lindblad, the Swedish-American pioneer of exotic expedition tours, the Explorer was built in 1969 at Nystads Varv shipyard in Uusikaupunki, Finland. The ship was built to stay afloat with two of its compartments filled with water, and its ice class on the HELCOM scale was IC.
The vessel was originally named the Lindblad Explorer in honor of Lars-Eric Lindblad. On February 11, 1972 the Explorer ran aground (into the ground) near La Plaza Point, Antarctica; its passengers, Lars-Eric Lindblad among them, were rescued by the Chilean Navy. It was towed to Buenos Aires, Argentina and then to Kristiansand, Norway for repairs.
The ship left Ushuaia, Argentina on November 11th, 2007, on a 19-day cruise intended to trace the route of 20th century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage (an area typically stormy with rough seas). After visiting the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island the Explorer hit an unidentified submerged object in the Bransfield Strait close to King George Island in the Antarctic Ocean, near the South Shetland Islands, on November 23, 2007. The object struck by the Explorer caused a 10 by 4 inch (25 × 10 cm) hole to the ship's port side (left side) which allowed sea water to enter the ship.
A passenger reported sea water in the cabin at about 03:00 UTC. Although some reports indicate there had been no noticeable impact, or at least nothing more than the normal crunching of ice experienced when sailing through icy waters, other reports say that there was a loud bang. Some reports also indicate that the ship drifted into an iceberg on the Explorer's starboard side while the crew was assessing damage caused by the original impact to the port side of the ship.
A mayday call was put out by the ship at 04:24 UTC, and rescue operations were quickly coordinated by the Prefectura Naval (Coast Guard Corps) of the Argentine Republic, and the Chilean Navy Center for Search and Rescue. Chile dispatched the icebreaker Almirante Viel, and nearby commercial ships including the MN Ushuaia, the National Geographic Endeavor, and the Norwegian Coastal Express ship MS Nordnorge which was operating as a passenger cruise ship at the time. By 07:30 UTC, all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew, from over 14 countries , left the ship and took to the life rafts, where they drifted for three to four hours, until they were picked up by the Norwegian ship MS Nordnorge which arrived on scene by 10:00 UTC.  It is believed that the Explorer sank at about 19:00 UTC. Coincidentally, earlier in 2007, the MS Nordnorge was involved in another Antarctic rescue when it evacuated 294 passengers from a sister ship, the MS Nordkapp, when the Nordkapp ran aground on Deception Island, a part of these same remote South Shetland Islands archipelago.
Some of those rescued by the Nordnorge were taken to the Chilean Eduardo Frei Montalva Station on King George Island. Later they were flown by C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Chilean Air Force to Punta Arenas, Chile, in two separate flights on Saturday, November 24th, and Sunday, November 25th. Approximately 70 of the survivors were taken to Uruguay’s Artigas Base. The Explorer sank within 20 hours after striking an unknown submerged object reported to be ice.
- "Cruise Ship Sinks Off Antarctica". The Washington Post. November 24, 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/11/24/ST2007112400367.html.
- "154 Rescued From Sinking Ship In Antarctic: Passengers, Crew Boarding Another Ship After Wait In Lifeboats; No Injuries Reported". CBS News. November 23 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/23/world/main3534814.shtml. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
- "MS Explorer — situation report". The Falkland Islands News. November 23, 2007. http://www.falklandnews.com/public/story.cfm?get=4760&source=3.
- MV EXPLORER Cruise Ship Sinking In South Atlantic, The Shipping Times, November 23, 2007
- Finnish: Uudenkaupungin telakka
- "Explorer syntyi talvisodan hengessä (Finnish)". Aamulehti. 2007-11-23. http://www.aamulehti.fi/uutiset/ulkomaat/55353.shtml. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- Lars-Eric Lindblad, 67, Pioneer Of Tours to Exotic Destinations, The New York Times, July 13, 1994.
- Erik Langeland
- "Cruise boat sinking off Argentina". BBC News. 2007-11-23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7108835.stm. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
- Philatelie Polaire
- Antarctic cruise ship tourists live to tell 'Titanic 2' jokes, The Daily News (New York), November 25, 2007.
- Ulster grandad set for home after Antarctic rescue drama, The Belfast Telegraph, November 26, 2007.
- Canadian ship lost in Antarctic, The Toronto Star, November 24, 2007.
- "Armada apoya labores de rescate de buque de pasajeros Explorer" (in SP). Chilean Navy. 23 November 2007. http://www.armada.cl/p4_armada/site/artic/20071123/pags/20071123150603.html. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
- The crew of 54 was made up largely of Filipinos, 45 of whom were aboard.
- G.A.P. Adventures listed: 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans, 12 Canadians and 10 Australians, 4 Swedes, 4 Irish, 3 Danes, 2 Argentines, 2 Belgians, 2 Chinese (Hong Kong), and single passengers from China, France, Germany, Japan, Columbia, Sweden. Not clarified, are earlier reports of 2 New Zealanders, 2 Bulgarians, and 1 Pole.
- Reel, Monte (November, 25), "Passengers of Doomed Cruise Ship Reach Chile With Vivid Accounts", The Washington Post: A18
- "Passengers are being rescued from the M/S Explorer". 2007-11-23. http://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/2007/11/23/519082.html. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
- "Passengers unhurt after Antarctic ship hits ice". Reuters UK. November 24 2007. http://uk.reuters.com/article/UKNews1/idUKL2331534120071124. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
|Wikinews has news related to this article: MS Explorer cruise ship passengers are safe|
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- MS Explorer – G.A.P Adventures
- Explorer – Det Norske Veritas Exchange Vessel Information.
- Passenger account from cabin 314, where the breach occurred - by Eli Charne
- Photos taken on the last voyage of the M/S Explorer - by Eli Charne
- M/S Explorer – Eagle Eye Tours
- BT.no webcam of bad list, title reads Here Explorer sinks – earlier still photos from Nordnorge
- MS Explorer anchored off Elephant Island, Antarctica picture at Flickr.com
- M.S Explorer Slideshow At Yahoo News – Yahoo News Slideshow
- Eye witness account of the rescue – Audrey’s Blog
- Picture of the ship sinking published on "Clarin" newspaper website – "Clarin" online edition 25-Nov-2007, Argentina. (Spanish)
- Erik Langeland