Goessel couple experiences rogue wave on cruise

Carol Duerksen on the Zodiac boat traveling to Damoy Point. This was on an excursion during her cruise in Antarctica
The brand new Viking Polaris cruise ship was damaged after being hit by a rogue wave on the third day of its first journey.
Donley and Carol Duerksen pose for their monumental landing on the 7th Continent they have been on together. The couple took an excursion to Damoy Point, Antarctica on the second day of their cruise trip. It would end up being the only excursion they would get to experience before their trip got cut short due to a rogue wave that hit and damaged their cruise ship.
Carol and Donley Duerksen saw a large group of penguins on their landing at an island called Damoy Point, Antarctica.

Not many couples get to experience the trip of a lifetime let alone one that ends up being part of a national and international news story carried on all major news outlets including the BBC as well as making various newspapers all around the world.

“It’s not often you find your experience being shared around the world,” said Carol Duerksen.

Carol and her husband Donley, who live in Goessel and have been married for 56 years, have traveled all over the country and the world.

We have traveled extensively internationally over the years. Between the two of us, we’ve been to 41 different countries. We’ve been to the six continents, and we have had international friends telling us about the 7th continent Antarctica. We’ve had it in the back of our minds that it would be nice to complete the seven continents, but we are getting older, would it work and it’s costly,” said Carol. “But then in August an opportunity presented itself, and we said if we are ever going to do it, this is the time. So we took the plunge and made a reservation.”

The couple signed up for an expedition cruise which has passengers leave the ship on different vessels to explore the area surroundings. This is different from the typical cruise experience that most people think about when they picture cruises.

The Duerksens decided on the expedition cruise on the Viking Polaris Cruise ship.

“Viking had four different vessels that you could leave the ship on to explore. There was a Zodiac Cruise which is a rubber inflated dinghy that holds about a dozen people and is gas powered with a fishing boat type motor on it, you could go kayaking, you could go on a special operations boat or a submarine” said Carol. “The Viking ship we were on had two sister ships, but ours was brand new and she had two submarines. The Viking ships are used to go back and forth from the tip of South America to Antarctica and are specially designed to go through rough waters. It took them close to five years to build them.”

The couple boarded the ship in Ushuaia, Argentina and took off. They traveled through the Drake Passage which takes 36 hours to cross and can be a notoriously treacherous part of the Southern Ocean with deep waters that are fed by the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Current according to Britannica.com.

“They either call it the ‘Drake Shake’ or ‘Drake Lake’, because it’s either completely calm or really rough,” said Carol.

Eventually the ship got to Antarctica and the excursions began.

Carol explained that because of safety, as well as the number of passengers (close to 350) and spots available for all to get a chance to do something, passengers could only leave the boat for around an hour at a time to do the excursions.

The first day there, Nov. 27, 2022, the weather ended up not being favorable for any excursions due to the high winds so the couple and other passengers entertained themselves on the boat. But on the second day, the couple went out on one of the very first excursions of the day at 8 a.m. before the weather got too bad and the rest of the excursions were canceled.

They got to get on a Zodiac boat and go to an Island called Damoy Point where they saw penguins.

“It was amazing though how just in one hour, the winds had come up again,” said Carol. “We were very glad to get back on the ship.”

Another reason the rest of the excursions were canceled for the day is that an accident had occurred with another excursion. Another Zodiac boat had left with 6 passengers and a crew to head to the submarine when the bladder under the boat exploded. This caused a passenger to be thrown up into the air, crash back down into the boat and shatter her leg bones. The injuries were more severe than the ship could provide care for with their facilities. Due to the weather conditions, help was not able to fly in either.

“The only option was for the ship to turn around and go back to port in South America,” said Carol. “You could imagine how disappointed we were, but Viking offered to do the Chilean Fjord Cruise for us since Argentina and Chile are side by side. We thought that would still be nice.”

The boat turned around and headed back to Ushuaia the next day, Tuesday, November 29. That night, the couple were enjoying a movie in the ship’s auditorium with others around 10:40 p.m. when they felt an “enormous jolt”.

After a few minutes, the Captain of the ship came on over the loudspeaker and announced, “This is not a drill. Code Delta, Delta, Delta.”

Carol said this meant the ship had sustained some damage while Donley explained that it meant that they had to go to their designated meeting spots for the ‘unlikely’ emergency they had been trained for at the start of the cruise. The couple went to their spot and found crew members bringing in jackets, boots, bigger life jackets, blankets and water bottles.

“We just looked at each other and said ‘there is no way if we have to get into these lifeboats in the middle of the night with still 12 hours to go to land; we aren’t going to make it’. Thankfully that is when things settled down and we started getting a little information,” said Carol.

The passengers were told that they would most likely not have to evacuate in spite of damage to the ship. They learned that a rogue wave had hit the ship and caused damage to 6-8 rooms but the ship seemed to still be operable.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rogue waves are freak waves that are at least twice as high as the surrounding sea state — the average height of the waves for a given area at a given time. Rogue waves can be anywhere from 60 to 100 feet high on average. The US National Ocean Service describes rogue waves as being “very unpredictable” and says they often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves.

The wave caused damage to the second level cabins on the port side and the Duerksens were on the starboard side in the second level cabins.

“The waves went through the windows and pushed the walls into the outside aisle,” said Donley.

The passengers waited for about an hour to get solid information. What the couple didn’t know is that during that time the staff was rescuing people from the rooms hit by the wave and dealing with the death of one 62-year-old woman. Eventually, the Dueksens and other passengers were allowed to head back to their rooms.

“We walked through water to get to our room, but we opened our door and found our room dry and intact,” said Carol.

The captain came on to tell the passengers that the ship sustained damage but the engines were fine. Once the engines roared to life, the couple fell asleep from pure relief.

Upon returning to port in Ushuaia, Argentina, everyone had to stay onboard while investigators boarded the ship and investigated. The next day passengers got to do excursions while the company worked on making arrangements for flights for everyone.

While the couple is disappointed in how the trip turned out, they remain thankful that they got to go.

“It’s too bad we didn’t get to see all the things we wanted to see and do, but we made it to Antarctica and we’ve been to the seven continents. The ship was brand new and wonderful. Viking treated us very well,” said Carol.

“Good food,” Donley added.

They also choose to learn from all the trips they take and this one was no different.

“You go to learn the culture and you adapt to it and you live as close to their style of life as you learn. The trips are all equal and have all been learning trips,” said Donley. “We have to take them for what they are. Why were we out there in the first place? We were out there because that lady broke her leg and put us in that passage.”

The couple say their highlight of the trip is that they are some of the few passengers who even got to do an excursion and they loved seeing the mountains, glaciers and penguins.

“Our landing on that island was at 8 in the morning and by 9 all the excursions were shut down so we were some of the few to experience Antarctica,” said Carol.

All of the passengers were offered a voucher for a return trip or a cash pay out.The Duerksens opted for the cash.

“We would go back if we were younger, but there are other places we haven’t been to. At this point we probably won’t go back there. But we have not lost our love of traveling,” Carol said.

The couple say they have been to a lot of great places in this world and have had lots of wonderful experiences.

Carol said, “We just love to travel. It’s our thing. The fact that we have no children means we are able to travel a lot.”

So what is next?

“No definite plans at this time, but there will be more adventure,” Carol said.

Hopefully the next trip won’t make international news.

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