A year ago on one of the world’s roughest seas, an extraordinary and rare event occured: a brand new adventure ship, the Viking Octantis, was hit by a rogue wave.

Just a week before, Cruise Passenger had been sailing Antarctica aboard this vessel, and was impressed by its speed, safety measures, stability and style.

You can read our review here.

During the trip, there was a Zodiac incident on another expedition vessel. That fact that we were a long way from help and that safety was an essential part of this journey was a constant and recurring theme from our crew.

The world’s growing expedition fleet has an extraordinary safety record, given they sail in some of the planet’s most extreme locations. The Polaris incident sent shock waves through the tight knit community of crews on duty in Antarctica who talk on Whats App all the time.

This week Norway’s Accident Investigation Board revealed its report into the incident, recommending Viking reinforce the windows on Viking Polaris and sister ship Viking Octantis. 

It was, the board concluded, an unfortunate combination of the rogue wave and the vessel’s course and speed which broke seven cabin windows, killed a passenger and injured eight others on the Viking Polaris. The crew, the board said, could not have foreseen such a combination.

Backstory of the rogue wave

The ship was actually heading back to the South American port of Ushuaia through the Drake Passage with an injured passenger hurt in a Zodiac accident  

After-accident photos showed several windows on a lower passenger stateroom deck had been broken in.

Why what happened aboard the cruise ship struck by a "rogue" wave should not deter you from expedition cruising
Viking Polaris damage after storm Nov 2022

The ship had an ice-class hull and stabilisers. But the board concluded the windows were not designed to take the enormous force of The Drake Passage, which can ben as high as 12 metres.

According to The Maritime Executive, the Board said “no rules have been identified for ships or ship windows that take into account the effect of breaking waves on the ship’s side” and stronger international standards should be set.

In the meantime, the board has called on Viking to reinforce the windows while awaiting design changes.