Passenger Killed as Viking Cruise Ship Hits Rogue Wave Near Antarctic

passenger killed by rogue wave
One of Viking's two exploration cruise ships in Antarctic on an earlier cruise (Viking)

Published Dec 2, 2022 12:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Drake Passage lived up to its reputation as one of the most difficult waterways in the world with a cruise ship reporting it was hit by a massive wave causing damage and killing one passenger. The exploration cruise ship Viking Polaris was returning from a cruise to the Antarctic when it encountered the wave that also caused non-life-threating injuries to four other passengers.

Weather forecasts for the passage running between the southern tip of Argentina and the coast of the Antarctic had been fierce. Passengers departing the port of Ushuaia, Argentina on another expedition cruise had been told to expect seas running up to 14 meters (45.9 feet) earlier this week.

According to a statement from Viking, the 665-foot long Viking Polaris was heading toward Ushuaia after its Antarctic expedition when it encountered what the cruise line is describing as a rogue wave. It is unclear where the cruise ship was in the passage that normally takes up 48 hours when returning to Argentina. The cruise line only reported that the vessel was approximately 1,700 nautical miles south of Buenos Aires.

Passengers aboard the ship described the experience as feeling like they had hit an iceberg, although they knew the vessel was in open ocean at the time. Photos of the cruise ship released by the news agency AFP showed several windows on a lower passenger deck for staterooms pushed in and broken. The cruise ship reportedly did not suffer any other structural damage.

"It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” a spokesperson for Viking told AFP. The company said it had notified the family, extending its deepest sympathies, while working with the other passengers aboard the cruise ship. 

Both the cruise line and the Argentine authorities were reportedly investigating the incident. Reports said Argentina has closed its investigation satisfied that it was an accident in the notoriously rough waters south of Ushuaia.

The 30,150 gross ton Viking Polaris was specifically designed for expedition cruising. Built by Vard, the vessel was delivered to Viking in September 2022 as the second of two expedition cruise ships. Her size makes her one of the larger expedition cruise ships regularly making the transit across the Drake Passage. The Viking Polaris was built with a Polar Class 6 hull. She accommodates up to 378 passengers offering a combination of luxury amenities and elements specifically designed for expedition voyages.

The cruise ship remains in Ushuaia. It is due to depart on its next cruise, a 13-day trip to the Antarctic on December 3.