Canadians rescued from grounded yacht in Galapagos

Published March 18, 2010

| AP

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Sixteen Canadian tourists and eight Ecuadorean crew members were rescued from a yacht that ran aground in the Galapagos Islands, officials said Thursday.

No injuries were reported in the Wednesday evening rescue by navy and national park vessels, which the 140-foot (46-meter) yacht's operator described as "safe and orderly."

All were taken to nearby Santa Cruz island, where the operator, Quasar Expeditions, was transferring them to other boats to finish their tour of the archipelago, said its local marketing manager, Fernando Diez.

He said the mishap may have been the fault of the yacht Alta's captain, but that the company was not yet sure.

Diez said none of the 3,500 gallons of fuel aboard the yacht had spilled and that an attempt would be made to free it Thursday afternoon from choppy waters adjacent the small island of Camano.

"We are completely aware that we need to be ready to combat any type of contamination there might be, although at the moment there has been none," Diez told The Associated Press.

A spokeswoman from Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, Dana Cryderman, confirmed from Ottawa that all the Canadians were safe and said the country's embassy in Ecuador was providing assistance.

Quasar Expeditions, based in Florida, runs cruises on motorized yachts and the Alta, a motor-assisted sailboat, in the Galapagos. The tourist destination off Ecuador's coast was made famous by the 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin because of its unique flora and fauna and fragile ecosystem.

Each passenger aboard the eight-cabin Alta paid $3,750 for the eight-day trip.

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Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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