COPENHAGEN, Denmark –
Another attempt to pull free a Bahamas-flagged luxury cruise ship carrying 206 people that ran aground in the world’s northernmost national park in Greenland has failed after trying to use the high tide, authorities said.
It was the third attempt to free the MV Ocean Explorer. Earlier this week, the cruise ship made two failed attempts to float free on its own during high tide.
The cruise ship ran aground above the Arctic Circle on Monday in Alpefjord, which is in the Northeast Greenland National Park. The park is almost as much land as France and Spain combined, and approximately 80% is permanently covered by an ice sheet. Alpefjord sits about 240 kilometres (149 miles) away from the closest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which itself is nearly 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) from the country’s capital, Nuuk.
The Greenland Nature Institute’s fisheries research vessel Tarajoq attempted to pull the Ocean Explorer free at high tide on Wednesday morning.
“Unfortunately, the attempt was not successful,” said the Danish Joint Arctic Command, which was coordinating the operation to free the cruise ship.
In a statement, the Arctic Command’s “first priority” was to have its larger inspection vessel Knud Rasmussen reach the site, saying the ship was expected Friday in the evening as it had to “slow down a bit” on its way because of the weather.
The cruise ship is operated by Australia-based Aurora Expeditions and has passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. It has an inverted bow, shaped like the one on a submarine. It has 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds and 99 beds for crew, and several restaurants.
Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald quoted a retired couple from Australia, Steven Fraser and Gina Hill.
On board there are “a lot of wealthy older people” and “everyone’s in good spirits. It’s a little bit frustrating, but we are in a beautiful part of the world,” Fraser was quoted as saying by the daily.
“We do have a couple of cases of COVID, but there’s a doctor on board,” he told the daily, adding he himself had come down with COVID-19 on the ship.
The Arctic Command earlier has said there were other ships in the vicinity of the stranded cruise liner. So are members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a Danish naval unit that conducts long-range reconnaissance and enforces Danish sovereignty in the Arctic wilderness. The latter visited the ship Tuesday and reported that everyone on board was fine and no damage to the vessel had been reported.
Greenland newspaper Sermitsiaq said that police in Greenland was investigating why the ship had run aground and whether any laws had been violated. So far, no one has been charged or arrested. According to the daily, citing a police statement, an officer had been onboard the cruise ship to carry out “initial investigative steps, which, among other things, involve questioning the crew and other relevant persons on board.”
The primary mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to ensure Danish sovereignty by monitoring the area around the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, including the Arctic Ocean in the north. Greenland is a semi-independent territory that is part of the Danish realm, as are the Faeroe Islands.