Passengers on stranded ship in Antarctic evacuated

19:50, Feb 18 2009
COLD FRONT: The Bahamas flagged cruiser Ocean Nova, carrying 105 people including three New Zealanders, is seen stranded near the Argentine San Martin base in Antarctica.

Seventy-four tourists, including three New Zealanders, have been evacuated from a cruise ship that ran aground in icy Antarctic waters.

It was the second rescue effort mounted in just two months for a cruise ship carrying travelers eager to catch a glimpse of the area's icebergs, seals, penguins and whales.

The Navy said the passengers were moved from the Bahamas-flagged "Ocean Nova" to another ship owned by the same company, which will transport them to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina.

The stranded blue-and-white ship also had 30 crew members aboard, but no mention was made of their evacuation.

The ship owned by Connecticut-based Quark Expeditions, which is part of TUI Travel Plc, an international leisure travel company based in Britain.

The ship first ran aground early on Tuesday, but it was not damaged and oil spills in the area were ruled out. Its crew has kept in contact with an Argentine military base on Antarctica.


Attempts to get the vessel afloat during high tide failed during the early on Wednesday.

In a similar incident in December, a ship carrying 122 people ran aground and its passengers had to be evacuated.

Over a year ago, more than 150 crew and passengers, many of them elderly, escaped unhurt in a dramatic rescue after their cruise ship hit ice off Antarctica and sank.

The evacuees sat in open lifeboats for several hours in freezing temperatures before they were picked up.

Tourism to the Antarctic region has increased five-fold since the early 1990s, as tens of thousands of people cruise during the southern hemisphere's summer to see towering icebergs and wildlife.