Orion Expedition cruise obstructed by Antarctic Iceberg

Posted December 7th, 2011

An iceberg, the size of ACT, is blocking entry to Commonwealth Bay and Mawson's Huts.

This week’s voyages commemorating the centenary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic expedition are likely to be thwarted by a 97 km-long iceberg, known as B9B, which has become grounded north of Commonwealth Bay.

B9B, which hit the headlines when it collided with the Mertz Glacier 18 months ago, is now obstructing the route of ships headed for Mawson’s Huts.

Orion Expedition Cruises’ managing director Sarina Bratton said that the captain, ice master and expedition leader were keeping passengers briefed on the conditions as they continued to head south.

“The day before we left there appeared to be a little movement on the ice, however it is unlikely there will be sufficient movement to provide access to Commonwealth Bay,” Bratton said.

Expedition leader Don McIntyre emailed on Monday to say the sea temperature at the current latitude was the coldest he has ever known it, by about four degrees Celsius, and therefore the pack ice around B9B had not yet melted.

In a letter sent to all guests before embarkation, he wrote: “This year’s passage will be unlike any other in living memory.”

But the situation has led to some benefits for passengers on the $20,000 cruise.

“Whereby last year we had to go looking for pack ice, this year it is everywhere,” Bratton said.

“They have made good speed heading south and saw their first iceberg this morning – a lot further north than normal.”

The company is constantly monitoring the situation.

“As with all Antarctic sailings, we look for opportunistic conditions to land guests where we can,” Bratton said.

Cruise Weekly – Tuesday 6 December 2011

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