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Ocean Explorer: Luxury cruise ship freed after running aground in a Greenland fjord

A luxury cruise ship that ran aground off Greenland’s eastern coastline earlier this week has been successfully freed, Denmark’s military Joint Arctic Command said on Thursday.

The Ocean Explorer – carrying 206 passengers and crew – ran aground in Alpefjord on Monday. The JAC said the cruise ship had been pulled free by a fishing research vessel on Thursday morning.

The vessel had failed in several earlier attempts to refloat, raising concerns it would be stuck for days awaiting the arrival of a larger Danish naval ship which was en route to assist.

Earlier, three passengers on board were placed in isolation after contracting Covid-19, tour agency Aurora Expeditions, the ship’s operator, announced Thursday. All others aboard were said to be healthy and safe. It said neither the ship, its passengers, nor the surrounding water had been in danger due to the incident.

SunStone, the ship’s Florida-based owner, said Ocean Explorer had been successfully assisted off its grounding by Tarajoq, a Greenland research vessel that been involved in several earlier attempts to refloat the cruise ship.

“There have not been any injuries to any person on board, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull,” SunStone said in a press release.

The company said it had “arranged additional tug assistance in case it was needed,” but that it has now stood down on this.

“We would like to thank our charterer Aurora Expeditions as well as all their passengers for an excellent cooperation in this unexpected and difficult circumstance,” SunStone added.

“The vessel and its passengers will now be positioned to a port where the vessel’s bottom damages can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a port from which they can be flown back home.”

The company did not specify what that port would be.

‘No panic’

While the ship was awaiting help, one passenger, named only as Lis, had joked that the main fear on board was running out of alcohol.

“I had swimming lessons before I came and I’m a good swimmer. So look out: I could be swimming back to Iceland.”

There was no panic amongst passengers, Varga said.

She said staff had been doing a good job at trying to keep passengers entertained. “Today they’re offering a towel-folding workshop to learn some towel origami,” she said.

The Ocean Explorer had made several unsuccessful attempts to free itself on tidal currents in the past few days, according to a statement from Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command (JAC).

A larger Danish naval vessel, the Knud Rasmussen, was dispatched to assist, according to the JAC, but faced a journey of 1,200 nautical miles (around 2,222 kilometers) to reach the cruise ship. It wasn’t due to arrive until late Friday.

“As soon as we realized that the Ocean Explorer could not get free on its own, we sent a ship towards the wreck,” Arctic Commander Brian Jensen said.

Danish military personnel boarded the cruise ship on Tuesday and said all 206 people aboard were “doing well,” according to the Danish Armed Forces on Wednesday.

The ship was “purpose-built for expedition travel to the world’s most remote destinations,” according to the official website for Aurora Expeditions.

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