Another cruise ship aground in Antarctica

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A year after the Canadian-owned 246-foot cruise liner Explorer sank after hitting an iceberg in Antarctica, the 278-foot Argentine-registered cruise liner Ushuaia ran aground near the same area at 10 a.m. Thursday, according to a report in The New York Times.

The ship was carrying 82 passengers and 40 crewmembers when the ice punctured two diesel fuel tanks. Several boats were contacted for assistance, but the closest was the 274-foot Chilean cruise ship Antarctic Dream seven nautical miles away. It came to collect the passengers and crew, who were all in good health, according to the report. Argentine Navy officials say the ship grounded on the rocks on the Antarctic Peninsula, a long arm of land that extends north towards South America. “Very little” fuel was spilled into the water, the captain reported.

“The cause of grounding is something we’ll look into later,” says Argentina Navy Admiral Daniel Martin. “Our priority is to help the people on board and control any contamination from the small amount of fuel loss.”

Ushuaia sustained two cracks, but was not in danger of sinking at last report. The cruise ship was formerly a research vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but is now operated by Antarpply Expeditions and is considered an ice-class vessel. She was built in 1970 in Toledo,Ohio, according to the report.

There has been a rising concern about the rapid expansion in ship traffic in the last few years as tourists are drawn to the dramatic icy landscapes and marine mammals. About a month after the Explorer sinking, the Norwegian cruise liner Fram floated adrift in the same region for two hours after its engines died. The 356 passengers and 70 crewmembers were rescued.

— Elizabeth Ellis