Passengers aboard an icebound cruise ship in arctic waters north of Alaska are having the time of their lives and are not eager to be rescued by a Coast Guard icebreaker planning to reach them Sunday.
"This is the most exciting trip of my life," said Jacqueline Foundas, 52, a passenger from Charleston, W.Va., aboard the 236-foot Society Explorer. "This is an adventure.""It's exciting for the passengers. They love it," said Capt. Heinz Aye, who has been easing his ship, with a reinforced hull, through leads in the ice, inching across the Beaufort Sea toward Canadian waters for a trip through the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Polar Star, a 399-foot Coast Guard icebreaker, was expected Sunday to reach the Society Explorer, crushing a path through the ice for the ship and then heading toward shore where a 140-foot Amoco Production Co. research vessel is trapped by ice and requested help.
Strong north winds blew Arctic Ocean pack ice in toward Alaska, taking the ships hostage.
While Amoco officials expressed concern about getting their conventionally built whale research ship into ice-free waters, those aboard the Society Explorer were having a great time.
"We're not at all in a hurry," Foundas said in a shore-to-ship radio-phone interview with United Press International from Anchorage to the ship 50 miles offshore and 130 miles east of Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of land in the United States.
"There's no anxiety," Foundas said. "Everyone is just so overwhelmed. This is an exciting, exciting adventure. The passengers are enthusiastic."
"The bridge is crowded with passengers. They're happy," said the captain, sounding quite jovial himself for a skipper who asked the Coast Guard to help free the ship from continuous ice floes each half the size of a football field.
Aye said that although he could see ice in all directions, the 15-foot-thick ice had not completely closed in on the ship.