Expedition ship Viking Polaris has been hit by a freak wave, killing one passenger and injuring four others.

The vessel, which was launched just a few weeks ago, had windows smashed as it crossed Drake Passage on November 29, a notoriously rough stretch of water between Antarctica and the Argentinian coast.

The line confirmed a small number of Australians were on board the vessel. They are believed to be still on board awaiting flights home.

One American couple on board said it felt as if the ship “had hit an iceberg”.  They added they weren’t sure if they would be asked to abandon ship.

Susie Gooding told WRAL from the ship: “It was sudden, shocking and we didn’t know if we should get our gear ready for abandoning ship.”

You can hear her report here

Cruise Passenger was on board the vessel last week, when it took the same route carrying Australian writers and travel agents. It is the start of the Antarctica season, and many vessels are plying the route as bookings for expedition voyages in the region boom.

Earlier in November, two passengers died on a Quark vessel when a Zodiac overturned. We wrote then about how the safety measures deployed and requirements of expedition crews is exceptional.

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A statement posted on Viking’s website on December 1 says:  “There was a rogue wave incident involving the Viking Polaris on November 29 at 22:40 local time, while the ship was sailing towards Ushuaia, Argentina. The ship sustained limited damage during the incident and arrived in port in Ushuaia without further incident the afternoon of November 30.

“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident. We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies. We will continue to offer our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead.

“Four other guests sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident and were treated by the ship’s onboard doctor and medical staff. We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities.

“Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel.

“After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the ship’s next scheduled departure, the December 5-17 Antarctic Explorer itinerary; all impacted guests and their travel advisors have been notified directly by Viking Customer Relations.”

When Cruise Passenger was on board, we were impressed by the emphasis on safety as Viking’s first female captain, Margrith Ettlin, took her across the same waters, outrunning rough weather due to the ship’s speed and stabilisers.

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Capt Margrith Ettlin on the bridge of Viking Polaris

Ms Ettlin is a veteran of the region and has also captained vessels with Silversea.