Engine Failure Ends Silver Cloud's Cruise to Antarctica

Silver CloudThe failure of a fuel pump and engine left the Silver Cloud adrift as it headed toward Antarctica on November 20, 2017, according to the Telegraph newspaper in London.

Power was reportedly restored to the ship in about an hour, permitting the Silver Cloud to return to Puerto Madryn in southeast Argentina for repairs. However, the following day, Silversea concluded that the replacement fuel pump part would not be delivered in time for the ship to cruise to Antarctica.

The recently-refurbished ship was scheduled to call on the Falkland Islands, the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula on a 16 day expedition between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. Rough weather had delayed the cruise, with the capital of the Falklands, Stanley, being omitted from the itinerary.

The article explains that that the 23 year-old Silver Cloud underwent extensive refitting, including a three month refit at a shipyard in Malta, to convert it for polar expedition voyages. The refurbishment of the ship into a ice-class luxury expedition vessel is discussed in Silversea Cruises ‘Silver Cloud’ Undergoing Massive Refurbishment by Brad Anderson.

The ill-fated maiden cruise to Antarctica cost the passengers around £12,000 (nearly $16,000) each. The newspaper reports that "Silversea will provide full refunds to all passengers, as well as organising and paying for flights back to Buenos Aires and on to guests’ airports of origin. It also offered overnight accommodation and expenses in Buenos Aires, a refund of outward air fares, and a discount on future bookings."

Luckily, the engine failure occurred in "relatively light seas. If the power failure occurred in the "infamously rough" Drake Passage to Antarctica, the outcome "might have been much more serious."

Clelia II We have written about near-disasters while cruising to Antarctica:

The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

Who's Responsible When a Cruise Ship Sinks in Antarctica?

Power failures to small "adventure" cruise ships present particular dangers to the cruise passengers and crew. The waters in the South Atlantic are treacherous. The Clelia II (photo right) caught the world's attention in December 2010 when it lost most of its power after a wave smashed windows and disabled its communications system and impaired its propulsion system while it was trying to return to Argentina from Antarctica. The video of the little expedition ship bouncing helplessly on high waves into howling winds is a must see. It made my list of the Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos.

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Ironically, CNN just published an article touting the bow-to-stern ice-class renovation of the Silver Cloud, costing $46.5 million, in How to turn a cruise ship into an Arctic luxury liner.

Photo credit: Top - Richard Sidey via gtspirit.com; bottom - Jonbowermaster.com.

Crystal Serenity Cruises Into Uncharted Waters

Crystal SerenityToday, the largest cruise ship ever to try and navigate the NorthWest Passage is sailing from Seward, Alaska in an effort to reach New York via Canada and Greenland.

Much has been written about the environmental damage which will be caused by the Crystal Serenity over the nearly 1,000 mile journey.  The Telegraph published an article titled The world's most dangerous cruise? 1,070-capacity ship takes on the Northwest Passage. Much has also been written about the environmental hazards which the Crystal cruise ship will face.  

The Telegraph writes that the NorthWest Passage is "not a defined route but a labyrinth of possible waterways, just 10 per cent of which has been charted. Unknown rocks, shallows and currents will present constant challenges. So will sea ice."

The Telegraph also reminds us that "things have gone wrong in the past. In 2010 it took a Canadian icebreaker 40 hours to evacuate just 120 passengers from the 330 ft Clipper Adventurer when it ran aground on an underwater cliff." 

As a history major, I tend to look back in time to determine the likelihood of things going wrong in the future.  I wrote about the Clipper Adventurer hitting what was described as an "uncharted rock" back in 2010. One commentator remarked that "the problem is cruise ships want to go off the safe shipping lanes where there is more dramatic topography or stunning wildlife." 

Of course, cruise ships have hit rocks and run aground even in the best of weather and sea conditions. Putting the Costa Concordia showboating disaster aside, in 2007 the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank in good weather off the coast of Santorini. The Windstar Cruises' Star Pride hit underwater rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama, and NCL's Norwegian Dawn hit a reef near the port shortly after leaving Bermuda. The last two incidents occurred in good weather last year.   

The most infamous incident occurred back in 2007 when the Explorer (photo right) was sailing in the Explorericy waters of the Antarctic Ocean and hit an unidentified submerged object, reported to be ice, which caused a gash in the vessel's hull. The Explorer had intended to trace the route of 20th century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage. The Explorer sank and all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew were evacuated and drifted for 5 hours in lifeboats before they were rescued. The sinking fortunately happened in good weather, permitting a safe rescue.  

In 2010, the 100 passenger cruise ship Clelia II averted disaster after it scrapped underwater rocks and began to take on water in the Antarctica Peninsula.  

In 2013, I wrote about a series of cruise ships striking underwater rocks in the Fjords of Norway.

Just yesterday, I wrote about the recent sinking of an excursion vessel carrying 23 passengers from the small, luxury cruise ship, L’Austral (operated by Compagnie du Ponant), near Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland which apparently struck an underwater rock or iceberg. The incident received little media attention, notwithstanding the environmental damage and the risk posed to the cruise ship passengers who faced a certain death if they had not been saved. 

The Telegraph says that the Crystal Serenity will be accompanied by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, an icebreaker, and two helicopters "to help scan for ice," so it appears that the cruise line has taken some extra precautions.  

The Arctic cruise, reportedly at a cost of over $20,000 to $120,000 per passenger, plus the cost of the excursions, is a clear money-making deal for Crystal, assuming all goes well. Let's hope that the Ernest Shackleton guides the Serenity safely through the ice and avoids the fate of the Explorer, which is sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean.  

Photo: Top - Crystal Cruises via the Telegraph; bottom - AP