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Cruise Ship Extracts Expedition at Risk of Being Stranded in Antarctic

expendtion team extracted from Antarctica on cruise ship
Antarctic Quest 21 team during their expedition (courtesy of Antarctic Quest 21)

Published Jan 26, 2022 3:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

The new expedition cruise ship SH Minerva boarded eight unexpected guests recently in Antarctica, transporting an expedition team back to Argentina. The crew of the Antarctic Quest 21 expedition had been battling against the logistics of getting back to Ushuaia, dealing with fierce storms that hampered their movement while new Covid regulations introduced in Argentina had complicated their extraction plans.

The team was transported to Antarctica in mid-December aboard another expedition cruise ship, the Sea Venture, to begin a planned science and exploration program on the Antarctic Peninsula. The team planned to travel over and along the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula, putting in place scientific equipment that will transmit data used in climate research. The second phase of the expedition called for data gathering for scientific research of climate change, meteorology, geology, and glaciology. They were gathering snow samples to evaluate long-range atmospheric transport of microplastic contamination, as well as measuring UVB radiation levels to establish the effect of ozone depletion, measuring snow deposition rates, and taking meteorological observations. They also conducted a special ceremony to mark the hundredth anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final voyage to the continent.

The owners of the SH Minerva, Swan Hellenic, report that the expedition team had spent five weeks engaged on the Antarctic Peninsula when it became clear they would have to attempt an early return. The SH Minerva arranged to come to their assistance reports Swan Hellenic.

“The issues leading to our emergency extraction started some weeks ago on the 3rd January 2022,” wrote expedition leader Paul Hart in his final situation update referring to the increasing problems related to COVID-19 travel restrictions. “Our pick up from the ice was planned for the 27 January 2022 and all our planning assumptions were based on that date. As the time continued to slowly ebb away, we learned that other operators, such as Hurtigruten, were canceling their season of activity in the Antarctic. This was a clear indication of a potential domino effect and all operators canceling their seasons due to the level of Covid being presented in Ushuaia.” Ultimately, the firm that had provided transport to Antarctica informed the expedition that it would not be able to make the planned pickup.

“We are delighted and hugely grateful to Swan Hellenic, the operators of this amazing vessel the SH Minerva, for coming to our assistance and helping us find passage back to Ushuaia,” said Hart.

 

Team happy to be aboard SH Minerva on the return trip to Argentina (Swan Hellenic)

 

The cruise ship SH Minerva provided assistance to evacuate the Antarctic Quest expedition team from Portal Point, sailing into Charlotte Bay on January 16, during her second cruise exploring the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The crew and guests on SH Minerva were delighted we could be of assistance in these challenging conditions and help the explorers safely complete their mission. The team was very generous in sharing their experiences, bringing a richly stimulating additional perspective to the voyage,” commented Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito. 

The expedition team reached Argentina at the end of last week where they are now starting the second phase of the work analyzing the data and drawing observations from Antarctica.