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Antarctic Cruise Ship Picks Up 154 Shipwreck Survivors


A Norwegian cruise ship has rescued everyone aboard a Canadian vessel that hit submerged ice in Antarctic waters and later sank.

The Norwegian vessel, Nordnorge, picked up 154 people - all the passengers and crew of the cruise ship M.S. Explorer, which hit an ice floe before dawn on Friday and immediately began taking on water.

An order to abandon ship was sounded after the Canadian ship began listing sharply, and everyone boarded lifeboats and inflatable rafts.

The captain of the Norwegian ship said the passengers and crew were cold and wet but in good condition despite spending four hours in icy, windswept seas off the South Shetland Islands. By Friday evening, several hours after the rescue operation was complete, the stricken Explorer disappeared beneath the Antarctic waves.

The rescue ship landed the Explorer's crew and passengers on nearby King George Island, despite delays caused by high winds and seas. They are staying at Chilean and Uruguayan military stations on the island, and will be flown to Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland as soon as weather conditions permit.

A Canadian adventure company owned the sunken vessel, which had been on a 19-day tour of the Antarctic and the Falklands.

Passengers came from more than a dozen countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Less than a year ago, M.S. Nordnorge was involved in another Antarctic rescue. The Norwegian cruise ship evacuated 294 passengers after another ship from the same cruise company, M.S. Nordkapp, ran aground on a remote Antarctic island. The Nordkapp was later refloated.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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