One dead and four injured after rogue wave strikes Viking Polaris near Antarctica

A rogue wave struck the luxury expedition cruise ship Viking Polaris Tuesday, leading to the death of one passenger, while a further four were injured, Viking Cruises has confirmed.

Viking has not released the passengers name, or said how he or she was killed, but the US State Department told the New York Times that it was providing consular assistance to the family of the deceased.

The four passengers who were injured did not require medical evacuation and were treated by medical staff onboard the ship, according to Viking.

Viking Polaris

Viking Polaris was enroute from Ushuaia, Argentina, which is on the southern tip of South America, to Antarctica at the time of the incident. The rogue wave reportedly struck the ship at around 10.40pm local time.

The ship sustained limited damage, the cruise line said in a statement, and returned to port in Ushuaia on the afternoon of the following day.

“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” the statement added. “We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies. We will continue to offer our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead.”

“We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities. Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel,” Viking said.

The cruise line further confirmed that the ship’s next scheduled departure on December 5th has been cancelled. Viking did not provide a reason, but the vessel likely requires structural evaluation by Lloyd’s Register, the ship’s classification society. Viking Polaris has large floor-to-ceiling cabin windows that may have been smashed by the wave, but Viking has not said what damage the ship sustained.

Rogue waves are unpredictable, but extremely rare. The last passenger to be killed by a rogue wave striking a cruise ship was in 2010 when Louis Majesty was hit by a 26-foot wave, breaking the glass of her forward lounge windows and killing two passengers.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a rogue wave is classified as such if it is at least twice the size of the surrounding sea state. Such waves will often travel in a different direction to the rest of the waves, catching the ship’s navigation crew off-guard.

Viking Polaris is specially built for the harsh Antarctic conditions. She was launched in 2021 and entered service earlier this year as the second in Viking’s fleet of Polar Class expedition ships. She carries 378 passengers and 256 crew.

The death on the Viking Cruises ship this week comes after the death of two other cruise ship passengers in the Antarctic last month. Two Quark Expeditions cruise ship passengers died after one of the ship’s inflatable Zodiac boats overturned near shore, Seatrade Cruise News reported.

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