Norwegian Cruise Ship Hits Iceberg in Antarctic

A Norwegian cruise ship carrying some 300 people lost engine power during an electrical outage and struck an Antarctic glacier, smashing a lifeboat but causing no injuries, officials said Saturday.

The MS Fram hit the ice late Friday near Browns Bluff in the Antarctic, said Ragnar Norum, a spokesman for the Hurtigruten cruise line company in Norway. The engine started again and the liner continued to King George Island for an inspection.

"We hit a glacier. We have damage to a starboard lifeboat and a little bit forward," ship Capt. Steinar Hansen told The Associated Press by telephone. He said the ship apparently suffered no serious damage.

Hansen said the power outage lasted 40 to 50 minutes and sent the vessel adrift against the glacier, where it spent "a few minutes" bumping up against the wall of ice before power was restored.

The Fram anchored before midday near Chile's Eduardo Frei base in an ice-free area west of King George Island.

"Everything is fine on board and we still have all the passengers on board," Hansen said. He added that the ship was "waiting for orders" on whether to continue its voyage.

Robert O'Connor, a 26-year-old American from South Bend, Ind., said he was in his cabin late Friday when the ship's crew told the passengers to head above deck.

"The electricity on the ship went out and we started drifting backward," he told the AP. "I actually saw the wall of ice coming up the starboard side. It came up fairly quickly, the ship drifted into it."

He reported a jarring impact that bent the railing and buckled the lifeboat. The captain and crew checked the ship and calmed nervous passengers, and after that "there were free drinks on the house," he said.

O'Connor said the ship left Dec. 25 from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, a frequent jumping-off point for Antarctica cruises.

Hurtigruten said on its Web site that it offers voyages in the southern hemisphere summer to take in glaciers, icebergs, penguins, killer whales and seals.

On Nov. 24 another cruise vessel, the MS Explorer hit an iceberg and sank hours later. All 154 passengers and crew took to lifeboats in the icy waters and were rescued.