Cruise ship Clelia II encouters fierce swells

This time, the Clelia II sailing off the coast of Antartica with 160 passengers on board. It was stranded for a while as it lost one engine power and downed communications. Could this have been prevented?

Watch this video excerpt and read the article below from USA Today for details:

Passenger on storm-tossed cruise ship describes ‘terrifying’ ordeal

By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

The 100-passenger Clelia II struggles in high seas in the Drake Passage on Dec. 7, 2010.
AP Photo/Fiona Stewart, Garrett McIntosh
The cruise ship damaged by massive waves this week while returning from Antarctica has made it back to its home port of Ushuaia, Argentina, and first-hand accounts describing a “terrifying” ordeal have begun to emerge.

One of the 88 passengers on board the storm-tossed Clelia II, Frank Dougherty, tells the Philadelphia Daily News today he thought he was going to die as the ship fought through monster waves in the Drake Passage that reached 30 to 40 feet high.

“I thought this was it,” Dougherty, a former Daily News writer, told the news outlet in a phone call from Ushuaia. “I never came so close to cashing it in.”

One huge wave smashed a railing into the ship’s bridge, knocking out all communication, including radar, Dougherty tells the Daily News. The vessel was “violently shaking and twisting,” he says, noting the wind was gusting up to 100 miles per hour.

Dougherty tells the news outlet he began imagining that if the ship went down, “they’d never find the bodies. You couldn’t even think about putting out lifeboats in that sea.”

The Clelia II reached Ushuaia late Thursday — a day and a half behind schedule.

In a statement, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators says a large wave that broke the ship’s starboard bridge window and doused electrical circuitry was the cause of widely reported propulsion problems on the ship (the video above, filmed by another expedition ship in the area and distributed by the Associated Press, shows the Clelia II struggling with high seas during the incident).

“This caused a temporary loss of communications and affected engine performance,” the statement says. “Both engines remained operational and speed was reduced.”

The association says no passengers on the the ship were injured during the incident, although a bridge officer knocked down by the wave that broke through the bridge window sustained minor injuries. The vessel, operated by New York-based Travel Dynamics International and owned by Helios Shipping Greece, will be inspected for damage in Ushuaia. The next voyage on the vessel scheduled to begin this week has been canceled.

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