Priest Tells Of Ships Sinking
Tourist cruises around Antartica are becoming big money spinners. Unfortunatly many of the liners looking to cash in on this new tourism are using older ships - maybe this adds to the expeditionary feel associated with these adventure type holidays but brings with it the oh so real dangers of sinking as witnessed last week when the M/S Explorer had to be abanded and subsequently sank. Here we get a first hand acoount from priest Rev. Bryan Hackett who at least got two weeks of a "fantastic holiday" and a sighting of four different species of penguins before almost drowning.
A FORMER Radcliffe priest who was rescued from a sinking cruise ship in Antarctica has arrived home saying he is "very thankful to be alive".
The Rev Bryan Hackett, priest at St Mary's Church in Church Lane, Prestwich, had to take five flights from Puntas Arenas, Chile, before getting home late on Tuesday night.
But that journey was bliss in comparison to having to abandon the M/S Explorer when it ran into trouble 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Passengers were transferred to lifeboats and spent several hours in the sea amid floating ice, before being rescued by a Norwegian cruise ship, the Nordnorge.
Mr Hackett had boarded the ship on November 10 at Ushuaga, on the southern tip of Argentina, for an Antarctic holiday of a lifetime to celebrate his 40th birthday.
Mr Hackett, who was previously priest at St Mary's Church, Radcliffe, said the first two weeks of the £4,000 cruise were fantastic.
"It was going extremely well. We were very fortunate in the amount of wildlife we saw, including four different species of penguins."
Mr Hackett was in his cabin, getting ready for bed at around midnight last Thursday, November 22, when the ship started to sink.
A loudspeaker announcement said: "This is a real emergency. Please put on your waterproof and thermal gear and get up to the meeting point at the muster station in the next five minutes."
At first, passengers were told that there were holes in the ship, which surprised Mr Hackett.
He said: "I hadn't heard any worrying sounds. We were used to bumping against ice and there was no loud noise to make me worry."
A couple of hours later, he was allowed back to his cabin to gather some belongings.
When he got to the cabin, the power failed and he was told to return to the muster station immediately.
Mr Hackett said: "The engineer said no oil was going through the engine. At 3am, the captain announced that we would have to abandon ship."
The 150 passengers clambered into lifeboats which were lowered into the sea.
Mr Hackett said: "We were lucky because the weather was good that night. The sea was relatively calm, as there wasn't much wind.
"If there had been different weather conditions, there could have been a serious tragedy. Around 12 hours later, there was a storm."
The passengers were in the open-top lifeboats for around four hours in temperatures of minus 5C and were given thermal body bags to keep warm.
"We were used to being out in the water bobbing around in boats during the trip. We knew that help was on its way as the captain had put out a mayday signal. Within minutes, he had responses from vessels in the area."
"Within an hour-and-a-half, we spotted the first helicopter, then another. Then, just before 6am, the first light on the horizon - from another ship - was spotted."
They were eventually rescued by the NordNorge, which took them to King George Island. From there, the passengers were flown to Chile in a Chilean air force transport plane.
Now he is back home, Mr Hackett said: "I'm very thankful to be alive. I also have a profound respect for the professionalism of the ship's crew in the circumstances."