Cruise Ship Passengers Recount Panic

The Explorer was known as the little red ship, and less than twenty hours after its passengers and crew evacuated, it was gone. Now, the rescued are sharing their stories.
CBS
With relief written on their faces, the adventure tourists walked ashore from the adventure they hadn't signed up for, onto a remote island off the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Roth.

And while their safe rescue from their stricken cruise ship the Explorer is a story of good luck and skilled work by the ship's crew in a crisis, when the ship hit ice in the dead of night, Canadian vacationer John Cartwright says there was certainly some anxiety.

"We all got a little nervous when the ship began to list sharply and the lifeboats still hadn't been lowered," he said. "We feel very relieved now. We're all sort of unwinding and happy to be up here warm and dry."

The explorer was known as the little red ship, and less than 20 hours after its passengers and crew evacuated, it was lost to the seas.

It was designed for cruising icy waters, but double-layered steel covered just the explorer's bottom, not the side of the hull where an iceberg apparently ripped a hole.

Water rushed in, compartments flooded, the engine failed, and the ship began its fatal list.

In frigid air, passengers and crew waited in open lifeboats more than four hours, bobbing as the seas turned rough, and two nearby ships steamed to their rescue.

"It was cold, it was wet it was scary," said a British passenger, who added, "now we're looking forward to going home."

But that was something of an adventure of its own as bad weather at the remote Antarctic base where the travelers waited delayed military flights for hours, before an airlift began ferrying them to the southern tip of South America for connections with more routine transport home.