Expedition of cruise ships at risk of running aground in Antarctica


The Antarctic Quest 21 team on their expedition (courtesy of Antarctic Quest 21)

Posted on January 26, 2022 at 3:01 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

The New Expedition Cruise Ship SH Minerva recently embarked eight unexpected guests in Antarctica, bringing an expedition team back to Argentina. The Antarctic Quest 21 Expedition crew had struggled with logistics back to Ushuaia, dealing with severe storms that hampered their travels while new Covid regulations introduced in Argentina complicated their extraction plans.

The team was transported to Antarctica in mid-December aboard another expedition cruise ship, the Adventure at sea, to launch a planned program of science and exploration on the Antarctic Peninsula. The team plans to travel above and along the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula, setting up scientific equipment that will transmit data used in climate research. The second phase of the expedition called for the collection of data for scientific research on climate change, meteorology, geology and glaciology. They were collecting snow samples to assess long-range atmospheric transport of microplastic contamination, as well as measuring UVB radiation levels to establish the effect of ozone depletion, measuring deposition rates of snow and make weather observations. They also held a special ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s last voyage to the Continent.

The owners of the SH Minerva, Swan Hellenic, report that the expedition team had spent five weeks engaged on the Antarctic Peninsula when it became clear that they would have to attempt a rapid return. the SH Minerva willing to come to their aid reports Swan Hellenic.

“The issues leading to our emergency extraction began a few weeks ago on January 3, 2022,” expedition leader Paul Hart wrote in his latest situation update, referring to growing issues travel restrictions related to COVID-19. “Our ice pick-up was scheduled for January 27, 2022 and all of our planning assumptions were based on that date. As time continued to slowly tick by, we learned that other operators, such as Hurtigruten, were canceling their operating season in Antarctica. It was a clear indication of a potential domino effect and all operators canceling their seasons due to the level of Covid presented in Ushuaia. In the end, the company that had provided transport to Antarctica informed the expedition that they would not be able to make the planned pickup.

“We are delighted and extremely grateful to Swan Hellenic, the operators of this incredible vessel, the SH Minervafor coming to our aid and helping us find the passage back to Ushuaia,” Hart said.

The team is happy to be on board the SH Minerva on the return trip to Argentina (Swan Hellenic)

The cruise ship SH Minerva provided assistance in evacuating the Antarctic Quest expedition team from Portal Point, sailing into Charlotte Bay on January 16, during its second cruise exploring the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The crew and guests of SH Minerva were delighted to be able to be useful in these difficult conditions and to help the explorers to carry out their mission in complete safety. The team has been very generous in sharing their experiences, bringing an additional rich and challenging perspective to the trip,” commented Andrea Zito, CEO of Swan Hellenic.

The expedition team reached Argentina late last week where they are now beginning the second phase of work analyzing data and drawing Antarctic observations.


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