The Arctic Journal reports that police in Greenland are investigating the cause of a sinking yesterday of a vessel carrying 23 passengers from the small, luxury cruise ship, L’Austral (operated by Compagnie du Ponant).
The articles states that the cruise passengers were on board a "locally hired boat" near Ilulissat Icefjord when it began sinking and had to be rescued by another nearby vessel. The cause of the incident has not been disclosed, although it is suggested that the vessel probably struck an underwater rock or iceberg.
Ilulissat Icefjord, on the west of Greenland, is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Cruising the Arctic waters has been the subject of conversation recently. The Crystal Serenity will start its month long cruise on Tuesday through the Arctic. The Serenity will be accompanied by an ice–strengthened polar logistics vessel, RRS Ernest Shackleton, for safety backup, according to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper. The issue remains whether the cruise ship is prepared for what can go wrong in the Arctic.
In June, the Arctic expedition cruise ship Ortelius experienced an engine failure in Hinlopenstretet, near Vaigattøyane (to the east of Greenland) , and had to be towed’ back to Longyearbyen. Mishaps when small cruise ships and expedition vessels strike underwater rocks are not unheard of, and include the Clelia II and the Explorer, which sank in Antarctica.
August 16 2016 Update: The Arctic Journal identifies the excursion vessel as the "Inuk II, a privately hired boat ferrying passengers from a cruise ship ifIlulissat Sunday night." The updated article contains several dramatic photos of the vessel sinking. "Inuk II, a 39-foot power boat rated to a capacity of 22 passengers, was 100 metres from the L’Austral, a French-flagged luxury expedition ship, when it began taking on water and rapidly sinking." The article also said that in addition to being overcrowded with 23 passengers aboard, the Inuk II struggled to manually release its life rafts, which by that point were submerged but had not released automatically. "By the time the final cruise passenger left the Inuk II, the water had risen to waist level . . . An Inuk II crewmember made a final check to make sure all passengers had been evacuated before the securing line was cut in order to prevent the Clane (a fishing vessel involved in the rescue) from being dragged down with the sinking boat."
Photo credit: By Michael Haferkamp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.