Luxury Cruise Ship’s Grounding in Mud Probed by Greenland Police

Greenland’s police have opened a probe into how a luxury cruise ship got stuck in the mud in a remote area of the Arctic island four days ago.

(Bloomberg) — Greenland’s police have opened a probe into how a luxury cruise ship got stuck in the mud in a remote area of the Arctic island four days ago. 

A police officer has boarded the boat and is interviewing the crew to shed light on the sequence of events that led to the ship’s grounding and whether any offenses occurred, according to a statement. No one has been charged or arrested, the police said.

The Ocean Explorer became stuck at about noon on Monday, and three attempts in as many days to free the vessel have failed, Denmark’s military’s Joint Arctic Command said. On Wednesday, a fishing boat had to give up pulling the large ship out at high tide. The passengers are not in danger, according to the authority.

The ship has about 200 people on board, including passengers primarily from Australia. It’s wedged on the muddy seabed in the Alpefjord, roughly 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) northeast of Greenland’s capital, Nuuk. The closest navy vessel available to help with rescue efforts has had to reduce its speed due to bad weather and is expected to reach the scene Friday evening, later than originally expected.

The vessel’s plight underscores the hazards of tourism in Arctic areas, where distances are vast and help often days away. Still, the majestic scenery of icebergs and the chance to spot rare creatures, such as polar bears, attract growing numbers of tourists.

Read More: Stranded Cruise Ship Shows Risks of More Traffic in Vast Arctic

The ship had at least twice tried to use high tide to float clear on its own, but the mud — a mix of sediment, sand and silt left by a nearby glacier — is creating a strong suction that’s holding it in place. In online debate forums, Greenlanders were quick to point out that the green water in the fjord was a certain danger sign of glacier mud that a local seaman would know to avoid.

In addition to the fishing vessel on site, troops from Denmark’s Arctic Special Forces elite unit Sirius, which patrols the vast area by dog sleds, have visited the ship by boat. The patrol has confirmed that all passengers are safe and plans to stay on land in the area so they can reach the ship within 90 minutes.

Its main hope now is a Danish naval vessel that’s on its way to help and expected to reach the site on Friday. Another cruise ship in the vicinity of the Ocean Explorer has been asked to stay in the area in case the situation escalates and, in neighboring Iceland, the coast guard is on standby if needed.

The ship is stuck offshore Greenland’s national park, the world’s largest, covering 972,000 square kilometers (375,000 square miles). It’s a protected area with animals including polar bears, musk oxen and walrus. There are no human inhabitants except for workers at weather stations and the small unit of Denmark’s Arctic Special Forces.

Greenland has extensive home rule but is part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Aurora Expeditions, the ship’s Sydney-based operator, specializes in polar trips. A part of its offering includes a 30-day cruise costing more than $33,000 (A$51,000) per person for viewing wildlife, such as polar bears, beluga whales and walruses, according to the its website.

Passengers, expedition team and crew are “safe and well,” the company has said. A couple of people on board the ship have tested positive for Covid-19 and have isolated, with no one in a serious condition, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, citing passengers at the ship.

The Ocean Explorer, designed by Norway’s Ulstein Design & Solutions AS and delivered in July 2021, is specifically built for adventure trips. It boasts an infinity pool, an atrium forward consisting of a two-level lounge with a piano bar and panoramic bow windows. 

The ship set sail from Norway’s Kirkenes on Sept. 2, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

–With assistance from Thomas Hall.

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