One person died and four others were injured after a giant “rogue wave” hit an Antarctica-bound cruise ship, travel company Viking said.
The “rogue wave incident” occurred during a storm on Tuesday – when the Viking Polaris cruise ship was heading towards Ushuaia, Argentina, the company said in an Thursday update. According to AFP, Ushuaia is a starting point for many trips to Antarctica.
“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident. We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies,” Viking’s statement read, adding that four other passengers were treated for “non-life-threatening injuries” by the ship’s onboard doctor and medical staff.
The ship “sustained limited damage during the incident,” Viking added, and arrived in Ushuaia Wednesday afternoon. AFP reported several windows were smashed.
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“We wondered if we hit an iceberg. And there are no icebergs out here, but that’s how it felt,” Suzie Gooding, a passenger on the Viking Polaris, told WRAL News. “Everything was fine until the rogue wave hit, and it was just sudden. Shocking.”
Viking said the company’s “focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew” and that they were working to arrange return travel for those impacted by the trip. Viking also canceled the ship’s next scheduled departure on Dec. 5 for the Antarctic Explorer itinerary.
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According to Viking’s website, the Viking Polaris is a 665-foot-long cruise ship that was built in 2022. Its capacity allows for 378 guests and 256 crew members.
What is a ‘rogue wave?’
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a rogue wave is a large and unexpected wave that can be very dangerous.
Rogue waves, which scientists call “extreme storm waves,” are more than twice the size of surrounding waves, the NOAA says, and often come from different directions than that of the already-existing waves and wind.
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These waves are very unpredictable and have a frightening appearance – with most reports describing rogue waves to look like steep “walls of water,” the NOAA says.
The agency adds that rogue waves are “extremely rare.” Experts are still researching how these waves form, but the NOAA notes that there are several known causes – including “constructive interference” relating to swells in the ocean and focuses on shifts in “wave energy.”