MV Explorer (1969)

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For other ships of the same name, see MV Explorer.
MS Explorer
MS Explorer in 2005
Name: 1969–1985: MS Lindblad Explorer
1985–1992: MS Society Explorer[1]
1992–2007: MS Explorer
Owner: 1969–1972: K/S A/S Explorer & Co, Oslo, Norway
1972–1980: Swedish American Line, Gothenburg, Sweden
1980–1982: Lindblad Swire Cruises, Panama
1982–1983: Salén AB, Stockholm, Sweden
1983–1985: Ferry Services Curacao NV, Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles
1985–1992: Discoverer Reederei GmbH, Germany
1992–2003: Explorer Shipping, Monrovia, Liberia
2003–2004: Kyris Shipping Ltd., Monaco
2004–2007: G.A.P. Shipping, Bahamas
Port of registry: Norway Oslo (1969–72)
Panama Panama City (1972–89)
Liberia Monrovia (1989–2007)
Builder: Uudenkaupungin Telakka, Uusikaupunki, Finland
Laid down: 1969
Launched: 14 December 1969
Out of service: 23 November 2007
Identification: IMO number: 6924959
Liberian Official Number 8495[2]
Fate: Sank after hitting an iceberg on 23 November 2007 at 62°24′S 57°16′W / 62.400°S 57.267°W / -62.400; -57.267.
Status: Sunk. Final wreck position at (62°24′18″S 57°11′46″W / 62.404882°S 57.196247°W / -62.404882; -57.196247)
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2398
Length: 239 ft (73 m)
Beam: 46 ft (14 m)
Draught: 14 ft 7 in (4.45 m)
Ice class: ICE-1A (as per BNV, equals Finnish-Swedish IA)[2]
Propulsion: 2 × MaK diesel M452 AK each 1,800 bhp (1,300 kW), driving a single variable-pitch propeller, 4 blades
Speed: 12.5 knots (23 km/h)
Capacity: 104 passengers
Crew: 54

The MS Explorer was a Liberian-registered cruise ship designed for Arctic and Antarctic service, originally commissioned and operated by the Swedish explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad. Observers point to the Explorer's 1969 expeditionary cruise to Antarctica as the frontrunner for today's sea-based tourism in that region.[3][4]

The vessel was formerly known as the MS Lindblad Explorer (until 1985) and the MS Society Explorer (until 1992). Ownership of the vessel changed several times, the last owner being the Toronto-based travel company G.A.P Adventures which acquired the Explorer in 2004.[1]

The Explorer was the first cruise ship used specifically to sail the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean, and the first to sink there[5] when she struck an unidentified submerged object (USO) on 23 November 2007, reported to be ice, which caused a 10 by 4 inches (25 by 10 cm) gash in the hull.[6] The Explorer was abandoned in the early hours of 23 November 2007 after taking on water near the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean, an area which is usually stormy but was calm at the time.[7] The Explorer was confirmed by the Chilean Navy to have sunk at approximately position: 62° 24′ South, 57° 16′ West, between South Shetlands and Grahams Land, in the Bransfield Strait,[8] where the depth is roughly 600 m.[9] The Royal Navy Antarctic Patrol Ship Endurance, at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office whilst carrying out a hydrographic survey for the British Antarctic Survey, later pinpointed the Explorer's final resting place as 62° 24′ 17.57″ South, 57° 11′ 46.49″ West at an approximate depth of 1,130 m, a distance of 4,373 m from its reported sinking position. This is broadly consistent with the direction of the prevailing current.[10]


The Explorer was commissioned by Lars-Eric Lindblad, the Swedish-American pioneer of exotic expedition tours, and built in 1969 at Uudenkaupungin Telakka shipyard[11] in Uusikaupunki, Finland. The ship was built to stay afloat with two compartments filled with water. Her original Finnish-Swedish ice class was 1C, which is relatively weak. It's not known when the ice class was uprated to 1A.[12]

The vessel was originally named the Lindblad Explorer after Lars-Eric Lindblad and was the first custom built expeditionary cruise ship. On 11 February 1972, the Explorer ran aground near La Plaza Point, Antarctica; her passengers, Lars-Eric Lindblad among them, were rescued by the Chilean Navy.[13] She was towed to Buenos Aires, Argentina and then to Kristiansand, Norway, for repairs.[14]

On 25 December 1979, Lindblad Explorer ran aground off Vicky Island in the Antarctic. Of the 140 passengers and crew, 125 were rescued by the Chilean Navy icebreaker Piloto Pardo, leaving a skeleton crew of 15 on board to await the arrival of a tug.[15]

In 1984, the Explorer was the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage. In 1989, she was involved in the rescue of the crew of an Argentinian supply ship that had hit a rock ledge off Anvers Island, Antarctica.[16]

In 1998, the Explorer was the first ship to circumnavigate James Ross Island;[17] and the same year, she is claimed to have been the first ship, as distinct from river boat, to sail 80 miles (130 km) above Iquitos, Peru, to the point where the Marañón and Ucayali rivers meet to become the Amazon River.[18]

The Explorer was depicted on at least two postage stamps issued by South Georgia and one issued by the Falkland Islands.[19][20] The Explorer was nicknamed the Little Red Ship.[21]


Tourists at Deception Island (2006).

An inspection at Puerto Natales, Chile in March 2007 revealed six deficiencies, including two that were related to navigation. An inspection at Greenock in May 2007 revealed five deficiencies including problems with watertight doors, lifeboats not maintained correctly, and search and rescue plans missing. It was reported that all the deficiencies found were rectified before the ship left port in each case.[17]


Location of King George Island
Map showing location of sinking
Passengers escape the sinking MS Explorer
The MS Explorer sinking on 23 November 2007

Explorer departed from Ushuaia, Argentina on 11 November 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 she hit an iceberg in the Bransfield Strait close to King George Island in the Southern Ocean, near the South Shetland Islands, on 23 November 2007. The object struck by the Explorer made a reported 10-by-4-inch (25 by 10 cm) gash in the hull which allowed water to enter. The Argentine navy later said in a statement it observed "significant" damage.[6]

Passengers on the Explorer reported a loud "bang" at the time of impact, although others reported that there had been no noticeable impact, or at least nothing more than the normal crunching of ice experienced when sailing through icy waters. One passenger reported sea water in the cabin at about 03:00 UTC.[22][23] 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 also to the starboard side of the ship.[24]

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.[25] By 07:30 UTC, all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew,[26] from over 14 countries,[27][28] were evacuated and had taken to the Explorer's lifeboats. The evacuees drifted for 5 hours until they were picked up by the Norwegian ship MS Nordnorge which arrived on scene at approximately 10:00 UTC.[17][29]

All of those rescued by Nordnorge were taken to the Chilean Frei Montalva Station on King George Island where they were subsequently airlifted by C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Chilean Air Force to Punta Arenas, Chile[17] in two separate flights, one on Saturday 24 November and the other on Sunday 25 November. Those passengers not taken to Punta Arenas (an estimated 70) were taken to Uruguay's Artigas Base. The Explorer was completely submerged at 19:00 UTC, approximately 20 hours after the initial impact and damage to its hull.[30]

The Explorer was designed, like most ships, with compartments which could be sealed off by watertight doors; the ship would not sink if holed and one compartment flooded, but was not safe if more compartments were flooded, either by a gash spanning compartments or imperfect sealing between compartments. GAP reported that there was a crack in addition to the hole, but it is not clear if it spanned compartments.[31]

In an article published on 8 December 2007, experts consider that the Explorer was "perfect for ice navigation", and consider that the explanation of the sinking "doesn't add up" and that "essential pieces of the story are missing".[32]

Company statements[edit]

On the morning of Friday 23 November, G.A.P. Adventures issued the following statement:

GAP Adventures, owners of the expedition ship, M/S Explorer, have confirmed that all 100 passengers and crew who were on board M/S Explorer when it hit ice in the Bransfield Strait off King George Island, Antarctica, earlier today are safe and uninjured.

Standard procedures were followed by the crew with passengers calmly evacuated to the ship's life rafts and then transferred to the Nordnorge, which was in the area.

The M/S Explorer's crew are also now on the Nordnorge.

On board the M/S Explorer were two Argentines, 10 Australians, two Belgians, 24 British nationals, 12 Canadians, one Chinese national, three Danes, 17 Dutch, one French, one German, two from Hong Kong, four Irish, one Japanese, four Swiss, 14 Americans, one Colombian and one Swede.

The families of those passengers are now being telephoned by GAP Adventures to advise them of the safety of their loved ones.

At 10:00 EST, Saturday 24 November 2007, G.A.P. Adventures issued the following updated statement:

All passengers and crew, including the captain of M/S Explorer, are completely safe, uninjured and in good spirits. The passengers spent the night at King George Island in Antarctica. There are plans for passengers to board flights today and tomorrow to Punta Arenas, Chile. Accommodations have been arranged in Punta Arenas and flights home from there are currently being scheduled.

The passengers include 2 Argentines, 10 Australians, 2 Belgians, 24 British nationals, 12 Canadians, 1 Chinese national, 3 Danes, 17 Dutch, 1 French, 1 German, 2 from Hong Kong, 4 Irish, 1 Japanese, 4 Swiss, 14 Americans, 1 Colombian and 1 Swede. The captain of the ship is Swedish and the majority of the crew are understood to be from the Philippines. The crew on board M/S Explorer consist of 45 Filipinos, 4 Swedes, 2 Bulgarians, 2 New Zealanders, and 1 Pole.

We can now confirm that at 19:00 GMT, Friday, 23 November, M/S Explorer sank.


The investigation into the sinking of Explorer was carried out by the Liberian Bureau of Maritime Affairs. The report into the accident was released in April 2009.[2]

The report cites the decision by the Master of the vessel to enter the ice field based on his knowledge and information available at the time as the primary reason why the Explorer suffered the casualty. "He was under the mistaken impression that he was encountering first year ice when in fact, as the Chilean Navy Report indicated, was much harder land ice."

Passengers reported seeing red paint on the passing ice less than thirty minutes prior to when the flooding was reported, another indication that the vessel was passing through compact and hard ice. The Master of the Explorer was very experienced in Baltic waters but he was unfamiliar with the type of ice he encountered in Antarctic waters.[2]

The report lauds the performance of the Master and crew in organizing and evacuating the passengers, and notes that lives were likely saved due to the actions of these individuals.[2]


  1. ^ a b Possibly also named MS World Explorer after 1985
  2. ^ a b c d e "Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of Passenger Vessel EXPLORER (O.N. 8495) 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands" (PDF). Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Liberia. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  3. ^ Mar 28 – Hump Day, British Antarctic Survey.
  4. ^ Scope of Antarctic Tourism — A Background Presentation, IAATO official website.
  5. ^ Reel, Monte (24 November 2007). "Cruise Ship Sinks Off Antarctica". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "154 Rescued From Sinking Ship in Antarctic: Passengers, Crew Boarding Another Ship After Wait In Lifeboats; No Injuries Reported". CBS News. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  7. ^ "Doomed Ship Defies Antarctica Odds". Reuters. 25 November 2007. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007. 
  8. ^ "MS Explorer – situation report". The Falkland Islands News. 23 November 2007. 
  9. ^ MV EXPLORER Cruise Ship Sinking In South Atlantic, The Shipping Times, 23 November 2007
  10. ^ "Royal Navy Locates Antarctic Wreck of Cruise Liner". Fleet Media & Communication, Royal Navy. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
  11. ^ Finnish: Uudenkaupungin telakka
  12. ^ "Explorer syntyi talvisodan hengessä" (in Finnish). Aamulehti. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 24 November 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2007. 
  13. ^ Lars-Eric Lindblad, 67, Pioneer Of Tours to Exotic Destinations, The New York Times, 13 July 1994.
  14. ^ Erik Langeland
  15. ^ "125 taken off ship aground in Antarctic" The Times (London). Thursday, 27 December 1979. (60509), col H, p. 4.
  16. ^ Pavia, Will; Strange, Hannah; Bone, James (24 November 2007). "Iceberg blamed as passengers flee holed ship in icy waters". London: The Times. Retrieved 28 November 2007. 
  17. ^ a b c d "Cruise boat sinking off Argentina". BBC News. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  18. ^ M/S Explorer
  19. ^ Philatelie Polaire South Georgia stamps.
  20. ^ Falkland Isles Stamp
  21. ^ "Stricken Antarctic ship evacuated". BBC News. 24 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007. 
  22. ^ Antarctic cruise ship tourists live to tell 'Titanic 2' jokes, The Daily News (New York), 25 November 2007.
  23. ^ Ulster grandad set for home after Antarctic rescue drama, The Belfast Telegraph, 26 November 2007.
  24. ^ Canadian ship lost in Antarctic, The Toronto Star, 24 November 2007.
  25. ^ "Armada apoya labores de rescate de buque de pasajeros Explorer" (in Spanish). Chilean Navy. 23 November 2007. Archived from the original on 25 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  26. ^ The crew of 54 was made up largely of Filipinos, 45 of whom were aboard.
  27. ^ 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, Colombia, Sweden. Not clarified, are earlier reports of 2 New Zealanders, 2 Bulgarians, and 1 Pole.
  28. ^ Reel, Monte (25 November 2007). "Passengers of Doomed Cruise Ship Reach Chile With Vivid Accounts". The Washington Post. pp. A18. 
  29. ^ "Passengers are being rescued from M/S Explorer". Dagbladet. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  30. ^ "Passengers unhurt after Antarctic ship hits ice". Reuters UK. 24 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  31. ^ International Herald Tribune
  32. ^ Christian Science Monitor

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 62°14′S 57°10′W / 62.24°S 57.16°W / -62.24; -57.16