Fram Hits Antarctic Iceberg

December 29, 2007
(Saturday, 9:30 a.m.) -- Hurtigruten's Fram, due to engine problems last night, drifted into an iceberg that caused some damage to the ship –- but neither injuries nor leakages are reported.

According to spokesman Elliot Gillies, the ship's engine stopped at about 9:30 p.m. and began to drift near Brown's Bluff, where it hit the iceberg. Brown's Bluff is on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. "Fram wasn't going fast," Gillies told Cruise Critic this morning, "certainly not fast enough to cause any significant damage." The engine was successfully restarted, but the captain turned the ship around and headed to King George Island.

King George Island, unofficially dubbed the capital of the Antarctic region, is home to a Chilean air base, a series of research stations operated by countries ranging from Russia to Korea, and a ship repair facility. It's known for its wildlife (like the rest of the islands in the region), though it's not a common day-long port of call for most expedition itineraries.

Fram arrived at King George Island at 6:30 a.m. this morning -- and is undergoing inspection of the engine. While there was some damage -- another Hurtigruten spokesman is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that "It bent the railing and a lifeboat was completely crushed." -- Gillies notes that the issue at this point is more "the engine than anything else."

The 12,700-ton, 318-passenger Fram is a brand-new ship. Custom-designed and built for the hearty Hurtigruten fleet (some may recall that the company was, in the past, also known as Norwegian Coastal Voyages), it debuted this year, sailing a series of unique Greenland cruises before heading south to the Antarctic.

According to Gillies, the ship's inspection today will determine whether or not the engine needs significant repair. In that case, it would return to Ushuaia and the cruise would be canceled. If it's deemed that the engine can be quickly fixed, the cruise will proceed -- and the ship will head back to the Antarctic region where it was scheduled, for the next five days, anyway, for visits to the most exotic places.

The 13-night cruise began on December 23.

We expect word this afternoon about the status of the engine repair -- and the cruise -- and will provide an update.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief