The Greenland trawler will attempt to free the cruise ship
A fishing vessel owned by the Greenlandic government will try to use high tides to free a Bahamian-flagged luxury cruise ship carrying 206 people that ran aground in the world’s northernmost national park, authorities said.
Capt. Flemming Madsen of the Danish Joint Arctic Command told The Associated Press that the passengers and crew of the ship stranded in northwest Greenland were doing well and “all I can say is they had the experience of a lifetime.”
The scientific trawler was scheduled to arrive later on Wednesday and when conditions are right will attempt to tow the 343-foot-long, 60-foot-wide MV Ocean Explorer free.
The cruise ship ran aground Monday above the Arctic Circle in the Alpfjord, which is located in Northeast Greenland National Park. The park covers 603,973 square miles, roughly the size of France and Spain combined, and about 80% of it is permanently covered by a glacier layer, according to the Visit Greenland tourism board.
The Alpefjord is located in a remote corner of Greenland, about 149 miles from the nearest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which is about 870 miles from the country’s capital, Nuuk.
The Ocean Explorer crew made two unsuccessful attempts to make the ship float freely on its own during high tide.
Australia-based Aurora Expeditions, which operates the ship, said in a statement that the passengers and crew were safe and well, and that there was “no immediate danger to themselves, the ship or the surrounding environment.”
“We are actively participating in the efforts to free the MV Ocean Explorer from land. Our first commitment is to ensure the ship’s recovery without compromising safety,” the statement said.
Dozens of cruise ships sail along the coast of Greenland every year so passengers can enjoy the picturesque mountainous landscape with fjords and musk oxen, waterways filled with icebergs of different sizes, and glaciers jutting into the sea.
Madsen, of Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command, said passengers on board the Ocean Explorer were a “mix” of tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the United States and South Korea. Greenland is a semi-autonomous region that is part of the Danish Kingdom, as are the Faroe Islands.
The people on board “are in a difficult situation, but given the circumstances, the atmosphere on the ship is good, and everyone on board is in good health.” The Joint Arctic Command said on Wednesday that there was no indication that the ship had suffered serious damage due to its grounding.
The weather in the area on Wednesday saw sun, clear blue skies and a temperature of around 41 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute.
Ocean Explorer was built in 2021 and is owned by Copenhagen SunStone Ships, part of the Danish SunStone Group. It has an inverted bow, similar to the bow on a submarine. It has 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds, 99 crew beds, and several restaurants, according to the SunStone Group website.
Joint Arctic Command said there were other ships near the stranded cruise ship, and “if needed, members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol could arrive at the scene within an hour and a half.”
On Tuesday, members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a Danish naval unit that conducts long-range reconnaissance and enforces Danish sovereignty in Arctic wilderness areas, visited passengers and explained the situation, “which calmed them down as some were anxious,” Madsen said. He said, who was the duty officer at the Joint Arctic Command.
The command, which was coordinating the freeing of the cruise ship, said the nearest Danish navy ship was about 1,200 nautical miles (or more than 1,380 miles) away. It was heading to the site and is expected to arrive at the parked ship on Friday.
The primary mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to ensure Danish sovereignty by monitoring the area around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the Arctic Ocean to the north.