Lindblad Family Reacts to Loss of Historic Expedition Ship

November 28, 2007
Shipwrecked Explorer Leaks Potentially Damaging Oil
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Passengers, Crew Evacuate Sinking Ship in Antarctica
Ship Sinking in Antarctic
Is My Ship Safe?

Of all the people that may have been truly affected by hearing of the recent sinking of G.A.P. Expeditions' M/S Explorer, surely Sven Lindblad must have felt more emotion than just about anyone else.

Not only was Lindblad Expeditions' flagship, the National Geographic Endeavour, on scene assisting with the rescue, but the Explorer once also existed as an integral part of his father's company for many years as the Lindblad Explorer. While his father sold the ship in 1982 and has had nothing to do with it since, this plucky little vessel pioneered expedition travel and made it possible for the thousands that now travel to Antarctica every season.

Sven Lindblad recently posted some personal memories and thoughts about the ship on his company's Web site under the link "Breaking News." His father, Lars Eric Lindblad, conceptualized expedition travel by taking the first groups ever to far away places that had simply otherwise not been accessible, including Bhutan, the Galapagos and Antarctica. For his seagoing journeys, he specially commissioned the Lindblad Explorer, giving it an ice-strengthened hull to allow it to safely operate in remote regions. By filling the ship with some of the biggest names in exploration and science and sending it on new itineraries, expedition cruising was born.

Sven Lindblad first started working on his father's ship at age 24, first as a Zodiac driver and then as an expedition leader. In his online post, he recounts a close call with a possibly fatal accident: "I was being hoisted up to the ship in my Zodiac after we had gotten all the guests back onboard and 30 ft. above the deck ... The expedition leader with me had on a survival suit and had been out for just a few minutes and managed to hold on to the emergency rope for maybe 10 or so seconds and then plummeted into the sea. We got him out within five minutes but I realized that had it been me, I wouldn't have survived as two hours out in the storm and not properly dressed had sapped every ounce of energy."

Sven Lindblad also relates an excerpt from his father's book, "Passport to Anywhere," that describes the time when Lindblad Explorer ran aground in 1972 and had to evacuate passengers. Sven writes, "I began to wonder if we were mad, running expeditions here. But, at the end of the day, it was the sheer and unabashed excitement and appreciation of our guests that answered the question unequivocally."

No journey to Antarctica is ever undertaken lightly, and in his post, Lindblad makes it clear how expeditions there have changed -- and improved -- in the last 40 years. He has long touted Lindblad Expeditions' experience in the region as a selling point, and he discusses the possibility of further regulations following the accident. It is rare that we get such a personal glimpse into the thoughts and feelings from a cruise line executive, and it makes for good reading, whether you are planning to go to Antarctica or not.

"When the phone rang in the early morning of November 23 in Connecticut, I knew before answering it that the news would not be good," Sven Lindblad writes. "I'm not too sad about the ship itself because I know that in conceiving her and exploring with her, an idea so powerful, so meaningful took hold -- our need and right to explore our planet."

Click here to read Lindblad's letter in its entirety. There is also a link to the Daily Expedition Report from the National Geographic Endeavour on the day of the sinking and a few pictures of the Lindblad Explorer in happier times when it sailed under the Lindblad flag.

And stay tuned in December for a virtual cruise to Antarctica onboard Lindblad Expeditions' flagship, the National Geographic Endeavour.

--by Ben Lyons, Cruise Critic contributor