seaspirit.jpgA passenger from an expedition cruise ship has been killed and two others are reported to have been injured when they were thrown into the sea from a rubber inflatable boat during an excursion in the Arctic.
The woman, an American in her 60s, was taking part in an excursion from the 100-passenger Sea Spirit, operated by Quark Expeditions, when the incident happened yesterday.
She was one of 12 being carried in a Zodiac vessel which was sightseeing near the 14th of July Glacier just outside the settlement of Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of the Svalbard archipelago.
All the passengers on board were swept into the icy Arctic water when the boat was struck by a wave. Local reports say rescue authorities received a call for help about midday yesterday (Monday).
Emergency crews were told a woman had been injured and was being examined by the cruise ship’s doctor. A rescue helicopter with a doctor on board was dispatched from the island of Spitsbergen, but the woman had died before it reached the ship.
Two other passengers who suffered minor injuries are not critically injured and are receiving medical treatment in Longyearbyen, according to a statement from Quark Expeditions.
The all-suite ship, which carries 120 passengers and 64 crew, is currently in Ny Alesund. It has undergone investigation by the local authorities and has been cleared to continue with its expedition.
Svalbard’s deputy governor, Lars Erik Alfheim, told local newspaper Svalbardposten that the cause of the woman’s death was not yet clear. Witnesses said the boat was “tossed around” after being hit by a large wave. All the passengers were thrown into the water and swept ashore.
Sea Spirit left Longyearbyen on Friday for an 11-day Spitsbergen Explorer cruise with fares from £3,200 per person. Five of the passengers on board are from Britain.
Quark’s website promises opportunities to view wildlife including polar bears, walrus and reindeer. Instead of a fixed itinerary, the expedition staff on board decide the route according to weather and sea conditions.