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Thursday, December 1, 2022

(Frequent Updates) Viking Polaris Antarctica Expedition has Tragic Accident during Storm in the Drake Passage

Reports are coming in about a Tragic Accident on the Viking Polaris Antarctica Expedition during the Drake Passage portion of the sailing, off the southernmost portion of South America. By all accounts the company is handling the event with professionalism and compassion. There is a report of injuries and loss of one life. The cause is allegedly a rogue wave. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who are affected by this tragedy.  

The Viking Octanis is returning to land to avoid the storm as well without any incident. 

From a Viking spokesperson:

"There was a rogue wave incident involving the Viking Polaris on November 29 at 22:40 local time, while the ship was sailing toward Ushuaia, Argentina. The ship sustained limited damage during the incident and arrived in port in Ushuaia without further incident on Wednesday afternoon local time.

It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident. We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies. We will continue to offer our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead.

Four other guests sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident and were treated by the ship’s onboard doctor and medical staff.

We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities.

Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel. 

After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the ship’s next scheduled departure, the December 5-17 Antarctic Explorer itinerary; all impacted guests and their travel advisors have been notified directly by Viking Customer Relations."

According to National Geographic, "a rogue wave is usually defined as a wave that is two times the significant wave height of the area. The significant wave height is the average of the highest one-third of waves that occur over a given period. Rogue waves can disable and sink even the largest ships and oil rigs."  A rogue wave can generate thousands of tons of force.

The rogue wave affected the Polaris after another incident on one of the expedition ship's Zodiac boats. According to Larry Mah's Facebook page one day ago (public post), "There was a major accident with a zodiac with injuries. Evacuation options are limited, and the weather is deteriorating. So, we are returning to Ushuaia at top speed. The Drake Channel has gale force winds (30-60 MPH) with waves 15-20 feet high. The next 600 miles is going to be a very rough ride!!" There were many ships in the channel and according to passengers, the female captain of the Polaris performed well.  The passenger who had the leg injury on the zodiac boat required surgery which could not be performed on the vessel, so the captain made the decision to return to the mainland. According to passengers, an explosion occurred on the zodiac boat sending a number of passengers about 3 feet into the air and some into the frigid waters, including the injured woman. 

Viking issued a second statement about the Zodiac boat incident, saying: "On November 28, the Viking Polaris deployed a small boat with six guests and one crew member near Damoy Point, Antarctica. On this trip a guest sustained a serious but non-life-threatening leg injury while on board the small boat and was taken to the medical center on the Viking Polaris."

"Following a detailed diagnosis by the ship's medical team, the decision was taken for the ship to immediately sail to Ushuaia so that the guest could receive additional medical care from a shore-based hospital," it continued. "The guest is now recovering shoreside in Ushuaia and will then return home; Viking is continuing to support them during this period. We are committed to the safety and security of all our guests and crew, and we are investigating the cause of the incident."

The area of the ship affected was the port side forward. Our sources tell us several rooms were affected on a lower deck, with broken and missing cabin windows witnessed from many guests when tendering to and from the ship in Ushuaia. The broken and missing windows led to significant water and debris intrusion into the affected cabins affecting passengers' ability to get out of their cabins. Interior walls between cabins collapsed contributing to the wall of debris encountered by those with the most aft cabins. Most passengers’ personal belongings were left behind in the affected cabins (which are actually 8 rather than 6 as we reported earlier) and many are without anything, including passports. Fear of a second wave was paramount and passengers felt evacuation from the cabins immediately was necessary. Viking is assisting with local embassies to secure transport home from Argentina and some passengers are just getting back their belongings that were underwater for days. The crew actually gave shoes to some of the passengers whose belongings were underwater. Salvage of the affected has been performed by the submarine captain on board who is a salvage expert.

The deceased passenger was a  62-year-old woman who was hit by broken glass when the wave broke cabin windows late Tuesday during a storm, Argentine authorities said. The victim was confirmed as Sheri Zhu, 62, by Secretary of the Ushuaia Federal Court Melina Rodriguez. The victim lived in California, had family in Taiwan and her husband sustained injuries as well. Little is still known about the deceased woman. 

Passengers on the nearby Ponant ship described 8 meter swells and over 50 knot winds. 

Most of the cabins affected on Deck 2 have this appearance on Viking Expeditions' website. 

December 1, 1800 PM

The Viking Polaris returned to Ushuaia and is now moved out of the port. Passengers are being disembarked and flown home. Passengers we know are reporting good support from Viking. We will not provide their entire ordeal to respect their privacy. Here is the Viking Polaris position at approximately 1800 ET today courtesy of

While the ship has moved away from port, the current sailing and the one following, to depart December 6, 2022 are canceled. 

This occurs after two US passengers drown during a zodiac excursion less than two weeks ago on another expedition cruise line. Additionally, the Scenic Eclipse has a lesser known incident, without injury, when a expedition submarine was unable to surface for two hours.

When we sailed Viking last, in the Summer of 2021, we felt the crew were exceptional in dealing with the COVID-19 issues our ship experienced. Certainly this is no comparison to what the affected passengers on board the Polaris experienced.  This story is important to us because we have been considering this itinerary with Viking Expeditions. 

Respectful updates as we hear them. This incident reminds the two of us how we take our safety and health for granted sometimes, and we are truly grateful for our health and each other. 

December 5, 2022

All affected passengers' passports have been returned. A large amount of their possessions have been returned, and passengers are drying them out as best they can, using heated floors and boot warmers. Many electronics are beyond salvaging due to water damage. Most passengers who were not affected have flown home, others who had passport issues, about 30 passengers, have now been flown from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. 

December 12, 2022

The Polaris is docked in Punta Arenas, Chile undergoing repair. The boarded up windows are evident in this photo. 

December 13, 2022

The Polaris has passed inspection and the next itinerary on December 17, 2022 is a go! The affected windows are covered with a temporary structure which can be seen close up in this video. Passengers who were booked in those rooms have been moved to deck 4. 

December 19,2022 

The CEO of Viking is on board the current Polaris sailing. 

February 2, 2023 

It’s not surprising that the us is investigating the recent events in Antarctica.

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