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This message is to my Spring 1993 Semester at Sea shipmates


Anchorage, Alaska - The 'Semester at Sea' cruise ship carrying hundreds of college students has lost power in two of its four engines. The M/V Explorer is used by the popular college program called Semester at Sea. Now heavy seas are causing trouble for that ship.


The Explorer -- carrying 990 students, professors and crewmembers -- is now about 900 miles south of Adak Island, searching for a break in the weather after encountering big seas that crippled all four engines.


A 50-foot wave was reported to have knocked out windows on the ship's bridge. Two crewmembers sustained minor injuries in that incident. For a time, the ship was running on just one engine until a second one could be restarted. Now the crew of the 600-foot long Explorer is struggling to keep the ship facing the weather as they wait for help.


Anchorage, Alaska - “Terrified” is how one Anchorage mother describes feeling after hearing that the ship her daughter is traveling on was in distress in the North Pacific Ocean. The Semester at Sea ship M/V Explorer is now heading to Hawaii for repairs.


Vanessa White is online again, searching for the latest on the Explorer, the Semester at Sea ship that her daughter Sara Karns is traveling on. The junior at the University of Oregon has not been in touch with her mother since the ship ran into trouble yesterday 650 miles south of Adak.


White says around lunch an Internet message board alerted her to the ship’s distress. “They had lost all four engines for about an hour after a 50-foot wave hit the windows of the bridge,” White says.


The wave damaged some electronic equipment, knocking out power to the engines. The ship set out from Vancouver on Jan. 18 and, according to one student blog on the Internet, it’s been a rough ride.


“No one slept last night, probably because we were almost being thrown off our beds!”


But the last two days have been the worst.


“The kids report that they were very scared,” White says. “They spent a significant period of time sitting in the hallways outside their cabins because common areas and the cabins were too dangerous.”


Paul Watson, a spokesperson for the Institute for Shipboard Education, said Thursday the inside of the boat is a bit in shambles, but the engines are working fine. “They are now making their way for Hawaii,” he said. “That was the decision of the captain in consultation with the analysis about weather and a number of things.”


Another unexpected turn for the nearly 1,000 students and staff on board.


Watson said this is the first year the Semester at Sea winter program has headed west from Vancouver. Normally, the semester begins in Florida with the ship heading east. Watson said that, although vessels can encounter bad weather anywhere, hindsight is 20/20 and there certainly will be discussion about whether this itinerary will be followed again.



The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Jarvis has been sent from Unalaska. So have three C-130 cargo rescue planes. Four merchant ships in the general area have started for the Explorer, as well. However, between the Midway Islands and Hawaii, the ship is literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


The Semester at Sea program lets college students study aboard ship while the ship plies the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic. The vessel serves as a floating campus for the 681 students on board.


The Coast Guard said it needs to get to the vessel before it can determine the best course of action. With two working engines now, the ship is reported to be heading toward the Midway Islands to try to repair its other two power plants.

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