The Empress of the North, a rustic paddle-wheel steamer that tours Alaska’s inland waterways and British Columbia ran aground overnight. Passengers were evacc’ed and it appears that the ship is now headed back to port under it’s own power.
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A riverboat-style cruise ship ran aground off the Alaska coast early Monday, forcing an evacuation of more than 200 passengers before it was able to move again with a Coast Guard escort. Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane said all passengers had been evacuated from the Empress of the North by 7 a.m., and the vessel, with 29 crew members aboard, was heading toward Juneau. There were no reports of injuries.“The story is shaping up for the good,” Lane said.The Empress of the North had 281 passengers and crew members aboard when it sent out an emergency radio message at 12:35 a.m., the Coast Guard said.When Coast Guard helicopters reached the area, the vessel was listing at the southern end of Icy Strait, about 15 miles southwest of Juneau, and it began taking on water, said Petty Officer Christopher D. McLaughlin at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak.As the ship’s pumps worked to remove the water, the passengers were transferred to other boats in the area and then to the Alaska state ferry Columbia to be taken to Juneau.The fishing vessel Evening Star was about five miles away, finishing a halibut trip, when its crew heard the mayday call.
“They were laying over pretty heavy to one side,” Evening Star captain Blake Painter told CNN. He said his boat pulled along side and took 33 passengers, while another fishing boat pulled up and took a few more. A Coast Guard cutter and a few more boats had arrived about an hour later, and all the passengers ware taken off safely, he said.
“Everybody is really fortunately that they only breached a certain part of the ship, because this water is frigid cold,” Painter said. “Everything worked together in their favor.”
If you haven’t been on an Alaskan Cruise of the Southeast, I highly recommend it, you will never see anything as beautiful. The mountains run from the sea to the sky, lush green rain-forest below and snow capped peaks at top. There are waterfalls, fjords, inlets, bays, and glaciers all along the way and the towns are rustic and cozy. I recommend these cruises to everyone, and I’m not just saying that because I’m from Alaska.