“Rogue wave” kills American woman, injures four others on Antarctic cruise ship

A U.S. woman has died and four other passengers have been injured after a powerful wave hit an Antarctic cruise ship during a storm that was traveling from the southernmost tip of South America to the South Pole, officials said. A 62-year-old woman was struck by broken glass when waves smashed through a cabin window on Tuesday evening, authorities in Argentina said.

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A spokesman for Viking Cruises said in a statement that the Viking Polaris cruise ship was en route to Ushuaia, Argentina, the main starting point for an expedition to Antarctica, when the “ocean wave accident” occurred.

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“We are deeply saddened to learn of the guest’s death following this incident. We have informed the guest’s family and offer our deepest condolences,” the statement said.

ARGENTINA-NORWAY-ANTARCTIC-ACCIDENT
The Viking Polaris is seen moored in the Atlantic Ocean off Ushuaia, southern Argentina, on December 1, 2022.

ALEXIS DELELISI/AFP via Getty Images


Neither Viking’s statement nor the Argentine Navy’s state has identified the woman or her hometown.

A spokesperson for the US State Department confirmed the death in a statement to CBS News and offered condolences to the family.

“We are offering all appropriate consular assistance,” the spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the family at this difficult time, we have no further comment.”

Four other tourists were treated on board for “non-life-threatening injuries,” the cruise line said.

“We wondered if we hit an iceberg,” passenger Susie Gooding from North Carolina told WRAL-TV. “And there’s no iceberg here, but that’s what it felt like.”

Gooding told the station that the shock wave was “shocking”.

“Everything was fine until the illegal wave hit, and it just happened out of the blue. Shock,” Gooding said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have our equipment ready to leave the ship.”

The ship sustained minor damage and was anchored near Ushuaia, about 3,200 km (almost 2,000 miles) from the capital, Buenos Aires, with several windows broken on its sides, AFP reported.

Viking said it was “investigating the facts surrounding this incident.”

Scientists refer to rogue waves as strong storm waves that appear out of nowhere, often with unpredictable directions, and appear as steep walls of water twice the size of surrounding waves.

These rare killer waves were believed to be legends reported by sailors or explorers. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton wrote in his book about a “giant” wave that hit Antarctica in 1916.

However, scientists have learned more about them in recent decades, studying how they form and how to predict rising walls of water even in calm seas.

Launched in 2022, Viking Polaris is the newest ship in the company’s fleet.

The incident comes two weeks after two tourists died on another Antarctic expedition. Two men, aged 76 and 80, abandoned the World Explorer and were traveling in an inflatable dinghy that capsized near the coast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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