Huge Wave Damages Passenger Ship

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) -- A passenger ship with about 700 college students aboard limped into Honolulu Harbor five days after a huge wave tossed the vessel around in heavy seas, damaging three of its four engines and injuring two crew members.

"Most people have been happy it's finally sunny and are glad to be going to Hawaii," Becca Leonard, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Southern California, said Monday after the ship pulled into port.

The 591-foot Explorer, with 990 people aboard, was about 650 miles south of Adak, Alaska, when the wave hit early Wednesday morning. Adak is in the Aleutian Islands about 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The 50-foot wave broke furniture and computers on the ship, and students participating in the Semester at Sea program were forced to sit on the floor for classes for several days after the incident.

Video footage showed students sitting on the floor and sliding back and forth, ramming each other into the wall as waves rolled the ship.

"We were falling all over the place," Leonard said.

Semester at Sea is a University of Pittsburgh-based study-abroad program for undergraduate students intended to give students a more global perspective. Students from about 250 colleges are on board. Many of them are from the University of Pittsburgh and University of Colorado at Boulder, Leonard said. The 100-day voyage began January 18 in Vancouver.

Woodrow Freese, operations manager for the Institute for Shipboard Education, which operates Semester at Sea, has said no passengers reported injuries, and none wanted to depart once the ship reached port. One crew member suffered a broken leg and another a broken arm, he said.

The ship had headed for Midway Island after the incident but opted for the longer route to Honolulu for repairs, the Coast Guard said. The ship is scheduled to remain in Hawaii for several days before heading to China. The vessel will be inspected by the Coast Guard, naval architects and Marine engineers. The Coast Guard will ultimately decide whether the vessel is seaworthy, said Jim Lawrence, spokesman for the Explorer.

"I think some kids were really pretty traumatized, but maybe a day and half of calm weather will have changed their minds. It remains to be seen," Leonard's mother, Susan Popik, said in a telephone interview from her home in Redwood City, California.

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