‘Rogue wave’ kills American woman, injures four others on Antarctic cruise ship

A US woman died and four other passengers were injured when a massive wave crashed into an Antarctic cruise ship during a storm as it sailed off the southernmost tip of South America, officials said Friday. The 62-year-old woman was hit by broken glass when the wave broke the windows of the cabin late Tuesday, Argentine authorities said.

The Viking Polaris cruise ship was sailing to Ushuaia in Argentina – the main departure point for expeditions to Antarctica – when there was a “rogue wave incident”, a representative of the Viking cruise company it said in a statement.

“It is with great sadness that we have confirmed that a guest has died following the incident. We have notified the guest’s family and offer our deepest sympathies,” the statement said.

The Viking Polaris ship is seen anchored in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, on December 1, 2022.


Neither Viking’s statement nor Argentina’s naval prefecture identified the woman or her hometown.

In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for the US State Department confirmed the death and extended condolences to the family.

“We offer all appropriate consular assistance,” the spokesman said. “Out of respect for the family at this difficult time, we have no further comment.

Four other tourists “suffered non-life-threatening injuries” and were treated on board, the cruise line said.

“We were wondering if we had hit an iceberg,” Susie Gooding, a passenger from North Carolina, said WRAL-TV. “And there are no icebergs here, but that’s the feeling.”

Gooding told the station the impact of the wave was “shocking”.

“Everything was fine until the scam wave hit and it was just sudden. Shocking,” Gooding said. “We didn’t know if we should get our gear ready to leave the ship.”

The ship suffered minor damage and was anchored off Ushuaia, 3,200 kilometers (almost 2,000 miles) from the capital Buenos Aires, with several broken windows on its sides, AFP journalists said.

Viking said it was “investigating the facts surrounding this incident”.

Scientists often refer to rogue waves as extreme storm surges, which come out of nowhere, often in an unpredictable direction, and can look like a steep wall of water, up to twice the size of the surrounding waves.

These rare killer waves were once seen as a myth reported by sailors or explorers. The polar explorer Ernest Shackleton wrote in his book about a “giant” strange wave he encountered in Antarctica in 1916.

However, scientists have learned more about them in recent decades, studying how they appear and how to predict the wall of water that can rise even in calm seas.

Viking Polaris was launched in 2022 and is the newest vessel in the company’s fleet.

The incident comes two weeks after two tourists died on another Antarctic cruise. The two men, aged 76 and 80, had left the World Explorer for an excursion in an inflatable zodiac boat that capsized near the coast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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