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Alexey Maryshev Collision August 8, 2007

Oceanwide Expeditions Alexey Maryshev Falling Ice From Glacier Injures Passengers

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Alexey Maryshev Collision August 8, 2007

Oceanwide Expeditions Alexey Maryshev Falling Ice From Glacier Injures Passengers

A dozen and half British cruise ship passengers and one Russian crew member have been injured by falling ice from a glacier in the Arctic, when the cruise ship they were on sailed too close to a massive ice flow. Passengers were on a 12-day Arctic cruise including the Svalbard Islands.

The ship was near Hornsundet in the Svalbard Islands 300 miles north of Norway and about 600 miles from the North Pole, when the incident took place with the injured being flown to a hospital on the mainland at Tromso, including two with serious injuries. Four others were being treated in hospital at Longyearbyen on the Svalbard island of Spitsbergen.

The cruise line says the vessel had been near to an ice shelf when a part of the glacier "calved off". Calfing off referrs to giving birth to smaller chunks of ice.

The Russian captain, George Zhelenin says he was close to the glacier when the ice fell. A lot of it hit the deck. The big chunks of ice created waves that gave the ship a heavy list. Passengers were thrown around the deck, says first officer Petter Braathen at the office of the District Governor of Svalbard.

When the glacier calved, the ice slammed the water and the ship tipped at a 45-degree angle as a 70ft wave crashed over the ship. Passengers held on for dear life, to keep from being washed overboard.

Authorities questioned the captain and officers to determine the exact circumstances of the accident after the Aleksey Maryshev returned to the port of Longyearbyen.

If found guilty of violating the 2007 Shipping Safety Act he could get two years in prison. The act says that a ship shall be navigated in such a manner that there is no danger to life or health, the environment or material goods.

The injured Britons were among 50 passengers - all British - who had booked a trip through UK specialist tour company Discover The World.

The Dutch owned company Oceanwide Expeditions runs the cruise ship, which was built in 1990 as a research vessel for the Hydrographic Institute of St Petersburg. It is under long term contract to Oceanwide Expeditions, and was converted to passenger use in the Netherlands. They say the company will not employ Captain Zhelenin to sail their cruise ships again.

Aleksey Maryshev is 210 feet long, ice-strengthened and has a range of 70 days independent operation.

The vessels holds 50 passengers and 19 crew members.

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