The M/V Plancius. Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions
A month long “adventure cruise” to Antarctica and a number of remote South Atlantic islands a turn for the worse earlier this week when the cruise ship M/V Plancius broke down, leaving passengers and crew stranded in the harsh South Atlantic.
According to a statement made by the cruise company, Oceanwide Expeditions, the “Atlantic Odyssey” voyage onboard M/V Plancius was interupted on April 9th when the vessel suffered a mechanical failure that left the ship with just minimal propulsion. As a result, the vessel did not have enough power to navigate the open ocean and was forced to limp to a dock at King Edward Point Research Station located in Cumberland East Bay on the island of South Georgia.
From there, all 73 passengers and 42 will have to sit and wait until a support vessel, the M/V Ushuaia, arrives on April 18th to pick them up and take them to Montevideo, Uruguay where they will figure out their travel plans.
The M/V Plancius left the small town of Ushuaia located on the Southern tip of Argentina on March 29th. The original plan was to navigate the Drake Passage en route to the Antarctica Peninsula, then head north ultimately ending at Cape Verde and all the while stopping at various remote islands of the south Atlantic. But as any loyal gCaptain reader knows, cruises to Antarctica can go real bad, really fast. Luckily in this case at least the passengers are all in good spirits, all things considered anyway.
As far as the Plancius, a tug has been dispatched and she will be towed if onboard repairs prove impossible.
I have never commanded a ship in the distant South Atlantic but have been in the center of the Central Pacific where the closest aid was over a thousand miles away. A very lonely feeling and one always had a little anxiety that if something went wrong, you were really on your own for a long time. In the far South Atlantic, the feeling must be a whole order of magnitude highter and I am glad the PLANCIUS was able to make it to a secure anchorage. Definitely not for a single screw ship down there!
As an aside, I think these expedition ships like PLANCIUS are awesome and rival research vessels for being a pure form of seafaring. Getting to roam the globe going to remote locales that 99% of the people of the world will never see. I am jealous of the officers who get to sail on them. There were three old NOAA ships which would have been great US flag expedition ships. The DISCOVERER, OCEANOGRAPHER and MALCOM BALDRIDGE (RESEACHER). The DISCO ended up in Trinidad and I believe has been scrapped, the OCEANO is still sitting in Seattle not doing anything but was taken out of US registery so lost her coastwise trade endorsement but the BALDRIDGE did end up as an expedition ship and is in the South Atlantic now named theUSHUAIA. One has to admit that she is a very attractive little ship.