A luxury cruise ship, carrying 206 passengers, remains stranded in Greenland as efforts to free it have failed for the third time. Amid these challenges, the ship operator, Aurora Expeditions, has reported at least three Covid-19 cases among passengers. The stranded travelers are being cared for by the ship’s medical team and crew, with the Covid-19-positive individuals in isolation and reportedly in good health. The remainder of the passengers on the MV Ocean Explorer are said to be safe and well.
One passenger, Steven Fraser, who hails from Australia, shared his perspective on the situation, describing the mood on board as generally positive despite the frustration. Fraser himself contracted Covid-19 while on the ship.
The cruise ship became grounded above the Arctic Circle in Alpefjord, situated within the Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s northernmost national park. This vast park covers an area nearly the size of France and Spain combined and is predominantly covered by an ice sheet. Alpefjord is located approximately 149 miles away from the nearest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which is about 870 miles from the capital, Nuuk.
The Danish Joint Arctic Command, responsible for overseeing the operation to free the ship, reported the lack of success in previous attempts and identified its top priority as getting the larger inspection vessel, Knud Rasmussen, to the site. Inclement weather conditions have caused some delays, with the arrival of the vessel expected on Friday evening.
The cruise ship, flying the flag of the Bahamas, accommodates passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It boasts a unique inverted bow design resembling that of a submarine and offers 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds, 99 crew beds, and several restaurants.
The Arctic Command had earlier mentioned the presence of other ships in the vicinity of the stranded cruise liner. Members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a Danish naval unit responsible for Arctic wilderness reconnaissance and enforcing Danish sovereignty, were also nearby. Their visit to the ship on Tuesday confirmed that all onboard were well, and no damage was reported.
According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the weather forecast for the area in the coming days indicates sunny skies and temperatures around 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Greenland, local police have initiated an investigation into the circumstances of the ship’s grounding and whether any laws were violated. As of now, no charges or arrests have been made. The police statement mentioned that an officer had been on board the cruise ship to conduct preliminary investigative steps, including interviewing the crew and relevant individuals on board.
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The Joint Arctic Command’s primary mission is to uphold Danish sovereignty by monitoring regions around the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, including the Arctic Ocean in the north. Greenland is a semi-autonomous territory within the Danish realm, along with the Faeroe Islands.