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Cruise vessel runs aground; eco-tourists abandon ship

Posted: Monday, August 02, 2004

ANCHORAGE - A small cruise ship catering to eco-tourists was seriously damaged after going hard aground at Akutan Pass in the Aleutian Islands.

The accident that occurred Saturday night punctured the 340-foot Clipper Odyssey's forward fuel tank and forced 153 people to abandon ship, a Coast Guard official said Sunday. There were no reports of injuries.

The passengers fared better than the ship.

"She has substantial damage," said Chief Warrant Officer Roddy Corr, with the Coast Guard on Unalaska Island.

Corr said the ship's forward fuel tank was punctured on a rock, spilling approximately 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The tank had a capacity of 20,000 gallons.

Two empty spaces in the stern, called voids, also were ruptured and flooded. A gray water tank that holds waste water from sinks also was flooded.

Corr said swift currents made it impossible to clean up any fuel that was spilled Saturday night. Two Coast Guard flights of the area found little, if any, evidence of a fuel spill.

"A lot of it has been dispersed," Corr said.

Two Coast Guard officers were headed Sunday afternoon to a nearby island to determine if the fuel had reached that shoreline.

The small cruise ship was refloated with the tide early Sunday. It arrived in Dutch Harbor on Unalaska about 7:30 a.m. Two divers were checking the ship Sunday afternoon for underwater damage.

The ship's passengers were being put up at a local hotel and were trying to arrange for flights out of the area, Corr said.

Between 60 and 70 passengers found accommodations in guest rooms at the Grand Aleutian Hotel and another 50 were put up in bunkhouses usually used for employees. The ship's crew spent the night back on the ship, said Tom Enlow, general manager of the hotel.

"Everyone is safe and sound," he said.

The accident occurred at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

Good Samaritan vessels in the area carried the Clipper Odyssey's 122 passengers and 31 crew members from the cruise ship to safety at Unalaska, about 800 air miles west of Anchorage, according to Lt. Asheley Bodkin.

Thirty-five crew members, two pilots and two Coast Guard personnel worked on the boat to determine its stability before it departed for Dutch Harbor about 20 miles away on Sunday morning under its own power.

The Coast Guard sent cutters, a helicopter and an airplane to the scene. Fishing boats and a freighter assisted in the rescue, Bodkin said.

Corr said the ship would not be allowed to leave Dutch Harbor until a damage survey was completed and temporary repairs made. The ship would likely go to Kodiak or Ketchikan for permanent repairs.

The ship was headed west along the Aleutian chain when the accident occurred. The Clipper Odyssey had left Dutch Harbor that morning. It typically took passengers on upscale cruises lasting a week or more for tours of seal and bird rookeries in the islands, Corr said.

Clipper Cruise Line in St. Louis is the tour operator of the Clipper Odyssey. The cruise ship was on a 12-day cruise from Nome to Homer when the accident occurred on the seventh day, said Clipper Cruise Line spokesman Doug Bolnick.



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