Passengers boarding cruise ships in New York City and at other ports don’t embark while worrying about potential dangers. Instead, they anticipate relaxing days at sea and fascinating ports.
An increasing number of cruise lines are offering passengers journeys to Antarctica, a destination that few people have seen. Antarctica is wild and remote, and this can present additional hazards that are not encountered on cruises to Mexico or the Caribbean.
The final quarter of 2022 proved to be dangerous for passengers on cruises to Antarctica. Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 1, three cruise ships sailing itineraries in this remote location experienced tragic incidents. Four fatalities and several injuries were the results.
The cruise lines were not inexperienced or new to sailing these itineraries. Two of the vessels involved in the cruise ship accidents represented companies that have operated in polar regions for several years while the third is part of a fleet that is managed by a major European cruise operator.
Fatal incidents on these cruises occurred both on the cruise ship as well as on board a small zodiac vessel that was being used in conjunction with a shore excursion. While sailing near Elephant Island, the inflatable vessel capsized, killing two U.S. citizens. Quark Expeditions, the cruise line involved, reports that a rogue wave was responsible for the accident.
The Viking Polaris was cruising the Drake Passage when it was struck by a large wave, killing one passenger and injuring four others. An Oceanwide Expeditions ship called MV Plancius reported the death of yet another U.S. citizen after the passenger sustained an injury while on board.
U.S. Coast Guard investigates
All four fatalities occurring in the fourth quarter of 2022 were U.S. citizens. Although the U.S. is not leading the investigations into these cruise ship accidents, the Coast Guard and NTSB are taking part in the investigations.
People who are injured on a cruise or surviving family members of a tragedy at sea must deal with difficult circumstances, but it is possible that investigations of these incidents will lead to improved safety precautions.