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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Greenland luxury cruise ship reports COVID-19 cases

The luxury cruise ship stranded in Greenland with 206 passengers on board reported at least three COVID-19 cases on Thursday. This update came after the third unsuccessful attempt to free the cruise liner, which occurred when a fisheries research vessel tried to dislodge the ship during high tide on Wednesday.

Aurora Expeditions, an Australia-based operator, stated, “These passengers are currently in isolation and are being cared for by our onboard doctor, medical team, and crew. They are in stable condition.” The statement also reassured that the remaining passengers on the MV Ocean Explorer were “safe and in good health.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper, quoted Steven Fraser, a retiree from Australia who is currently on the stranded cruise ship. Fraser remarked, “Everyone’s in good spirits. It’s a little bit frustrating, but we are in a beautiful part of the world.” Fraser also revealed that he had contracted Covid-19 while on the ship.

The cruise ship ran aground above the Arctic Circle in Alpefjord, located within the Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s northernmost national park. This vast park is almost the size of France and Spain combined, with about 80% of it permanently covered by an ice sheet. Alpefjord is approximately 240 kilometers (149 miles) away from the nearest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which is itself nearly 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the capital, Nuuk.

The Danish Joint Arctic Command, responsible for coordinating the operation, stated, “Unfortunately, the attempt (to free the ship) was not successful.” Earlier in the week, the cruise ship had made two unsuccessful attempts to float free on its own during high tide.

The Arctic Command emphasized that their “first priority” was to have their larger inspection vessel, Knud Rasmussen, reach the site. They expected the vessel to arrive on Friday evening, but it had to slow down due to adverse weather conditions.

The cruise ship, which flies the flag of the Bahamas, carries passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It features an inverted bow resembling that of a submarine, with 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds, 99 crew beds, and several restaurants.

The Danish Joint Arctic Command mentioned the presence of other ships near the stranded cruise liner. Additionally, members of the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol, a Danish naval unit responsible for Arctic wilderness reconnaissance and enforcing Danish sovereignty, were nearby. They visited the ship on Tuesday and reported that everyone on board was safe, with no damage to the vessel.

According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the weather forecast for the next few days indicates sunny skies with temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).

Denmark’s Danish Maritime Authority has requested an investigation by Greenland’s police to determine why the ship ran aground and whether any laws were violated. No charges or arrests have been made. An officer was on board to initiate initial investigative steps, including questioning the crew and other relevant individuals.

The ship’s owner, SunStone Ships, based in Copenhagen, confirmed that the cruise liner began its journey on September 2 in Kirkenes, Arctic Norway, and was scheduled to return to Bergen, Norway, on September 22. They also stated that there was “no breach of the hull and no pollution” as a result of the grounding.

The primary mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to safeguard Danish sovereignty by monitoring the area 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.

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