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Rogue Wave Kills Passenger, Injures 4 on Antarctic Cruise Ship: 'We Wondered if We Hit an Iceberg'

The Norwegian-flagged cruise ship Viking Polaris is seen anchored in waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, on December 1, 2022.
The Norwegian-flagged cruise ship Viking Polaris is seen anchored in waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, on December 1, 2022.

ALEXIS DELELISI/AFP via Getty

One person is dead and four others were injured after a rogue wave crashed into a Antarctic cruise ship on Tuesday.

The incident happened on the Viking Polaris as it was sailing toward Ushuaia, Argentina, at the southernmost tip of the continent during a voyage to Antarctica, according to a statement on the company's website.

Four guests were treated for non-life threatening injuries by the ship's medical staff. The cruise ship company did not identify the passenger who died, but said it has notified their family and offered condolences as well as "our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead."

Suzie Gooding, a North Carolina woman who was on the cruise, told local news station WRAL that they felt the impact of the huge wave on the ship.

"We wondered if we hit an iceberg," she said. "And there are no icebergs out here, but that's how it felt."

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She said the wave was completely unexpected. "Everything was fine until the rogue wave hit, and it was just sudden. Shocking," Gooding said. "We didn't know if we should get our gear ready for abandoning ship."

Viking Cruises said the vessel — which just joined its fleet in September — "sustained limited damage."

Images of the ship appear to show broken windows on its lower level.

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The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a "rogue wave" as a one that is "greater than twice the size of surrounding waves."

The waves, which can look like "walls of water," are "very unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves," according to the agency.

NOAA says "exactly how and when rogue waves form is still under investigation," adding that because they are so uncommon and can form unexpectedly and disappear quickly, "measurements and analysis of this phenomenon is extremely rare."

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Viking Cruises said it is investigating the incident and "will offer our support" to authorities.

"We have made the difficult decision to cancel the ship's next scheduled departure," the company said in its statement, adding that "all impacted guests and their travel advisors have been notified directly by Viking Customer Relations."

"Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew," the company said in a statement. "We are working directly with them to arrange return travel."