Authorities said Wednesday that a fishery vessel will attempt to use the high tide to pull free a Bahamas-flagged Norwegian cruise ship carrying 206 people that ran aground in northwestern Greenland.
Capt. Flemming Madsen from the Danish Joint Arctic Command told The Associated Press that those on board were doing fine and ”all I can say is that they got a lifetime experience.”
A scientific fishing vessel owned by the Greenland government was scheduled to arrive later Wednesday and together with the high tide would attempt to pull the 343-foot long and 60 foot wide MV Ocean Explorer free.
The cruise ship, 343 feet long and 60 feet wide, ran aground on Monday in Alpefjord in the Northeast Greenland National Park — the world’s largest and most northerly national park, known for icebergs and the musk oxen that roam the coast.
The Alpefjord sits in a remote corner of Greenland, some 149 miles away from the closest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit which is nearly 870 miles from Nuuk, the Greenland capital, and across from the ice sheet that covers the world’s largest island.
Dozens of cruise ships sail along Greenland’s coast every year so that passengers can admire the picturesque mountainous landscape with fjords, the waterways packed with icebergs of different sizes and glaciers jutting out into the sea.
In a statement, Australia-based Aurora Expeditions which operates the ship, said that all passengers and and crew onboard were safe and well and that there was “no immediate danger to themselves, the vessel, or the surrounding environment.”
“We are actively engaged in efforts to free the MV Ocean Explorer from its grounding. Our foremost commitment is to ensure the vessel’s recovery without compromising safety," the statement said.
Madsen said the passengers were “a mix” of tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the United States and South Korea.
The people onboard “are in a difficult situation, but given the circumstances, the atmosphere on the ship is good and everyone on board is doing well. There are no signs that the ship was seriously damaged by the grounding,” the Joint Arctic Command said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a Danish naval unit that conducts long-range reconnaissance and enforces Danish sovereignty in the Arctic wilderness, paid them a visit and explained the situation “which calmed them down as some were anxious,” said Madsen who was the on-duty officer with the Joint Arctic Command.
Greenland is a semi-independent territory that is part of the Danish realm, as are the Faeroe Islands.
The Joint Arctic Command said Wednesday that there were other ships in the vicinity of the stranded cruise liner and “if the need arises, personnel from the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol can be at the accident site within an hour and a half.”
The command said the nearest Danish navy ship, the patrol ship Knud Rasmussen, was more than 1,380 miles away. It was heading to the site and could be expected to reach the grounded ship as soon as Friday.
The ship has made two failed attempts to float free on its own when the tide is high.
The primary mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to ensure Danish sovereignty by monitoring the area around the Faeroe Islands and Greenland.
Based in Nuuk, the command oversees the waters around the Faeroe Islands in the east and the sea around Greenland, including Arctic Ocean in the north, and has three larger patrol ships of the Knud Rasmussen class that have a landing platform for helicopters, although the ships do not have choppers.
The ships’ tasks include fisheries inspections, environment protection, search and rescue, sovereignty enforcement, icebreaking, towage and salvage operations and carry out police tasks.
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