Antarctica, M/S Explorer, Shipwreck

M/S Explorer Accident Report

You can access the full report (PDF format) from the following link:

The first thing I would like to say is that I am glad to have the report out there.  I was concerned about the time it took to get a final report, but I think it is a thorough and honest investigation of what happened.  I am also disappointed by GAP’s apparent reluctance to work with the investigators (p.55-57).

GAP refused to take any action to retrieve the "white box" from the ship, did not provide passenger information to the investigators (due to "privacy concerns"), and did not notify passengers about the accident investigation.  Even with privacy concerns, GAP could have provided us directly with the investigator’s contact information to reach them if we so chose.  Instead it was only through

word-of-mouth among fellow survivors that the investigators were able to reach us for to fill out their questionnaire and conduct interviews.

Some of the key recommendations in the report are:

  1. The Captain was found to be at fault for misjudging the ice field, and "in all likelihood" entering at an unsafe speed.  Due to this the report recommends administrative action his certificate of competency.
  2. Ships traveling to polar regions should carry immersion suits for all passengers.  On the Explorer there were apparently on 9 immersion suits – none of which were used.  They all remained stowed on the Explorer.
  3. Ships traveling to polar regions must have at a minimum partially enclosed lifeboats.  The lifeboats on the Explorer were "open lifeboats" and even with unusually calm waters the lifeboats were being swamped with water.  Also due to engines not working in 3 of the 4 lifeboats we were at risk of being capsized.  I don’t think open lifeboats should be allowed at all, but in particular not in areas of rough seas or freezing weather.
  4. Reviewing and updating standards for deck/shell plating for ice class ships and requiring companies to maintain records of the plating thickness.

I sincerely hope that companies taking people to Antarctica take note of the recommendations.  The report also clears up that the damage was much greater than a fist-sized hole, and answers some questions about I had about what was going on while we were in the muster room.

"Fist-Sized Hole"

The "fist-sized" hole occurred in the wall of my cabin (cabin 314), but it is not reasonable that a hole that size would flood the ship so quickly, be impossible to contain, and sink a ship the size of the Explorer so quickly.

As reported on page 18 of the report, "Although the two crewmembers thought that they had stopped the flow of water from the incoming ‘fist size hole’, they believed water was entering the vessel from additional areas adjacent to the hole because water continued to rush into the cabin."

The report concludes that punctures and holes extended from cabins 308-314, and in all likelihood punctured the #19 Deep Tank.

Report of Water Level Going Down

While in the muster room we received an in-person update from the captain that the pumps were running, and that the water level in the ship was starting to go down.  This is something that I wanted to believe.  What was clear to me at the time, however, was that the angle of list of the ship was not going down.  From first discovering that the ship was flooding until we abandoned ship the Explorer was always listing more and more to starboard.

In my cabin, under my bed was a "down flooding duct" or scupper valve (p34). The ducts were designed to drain flooding due to firefighting/fire sprinkler activity down to the engine room located one level below.  The ducts would resist opening – allowing flooding to an extent before they would open and start draining the water to the engine room.

I think the water draining from my cabin to the engine room gave the impression that the pumps were being effective when in actuality much of the water was draining below filling the lower level of the ship.


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