Cruise ship adrift in Antarctica

A cruise ship carrying 122 people, including 11 Australians, is adrift and taking on water after running aground in the Antarctic on Thursday but is in no danger of sinking, the Argentine Navy said.

The Argentina-based Ushuaia - with 89 passengers and 33 Argentine crew members - sent out an alarm about midday after it started cracking, leaking fuel and taking on water, the navy said in a statement.

Admiral Daniel Alberto Martin told local television that the Ushuaia had two cracks and was being helped by another passenger ship in the area.

Two Chilean Navy ships were on their way to help the Ushuaia.

The passengers are "of various nationalities" and are all in good health, Martin said.

The AAD did not have direct contact with the Australians, but had been informed by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators that they were OK, he said.

Mr Press said the Australians were on board the cruise as tourists. No other details about the 11 were known, he said.

Australia was not involved in the rescue operation, which was being coordinated by Argentinian and Chilean authorities.

"There are a couple of tourist vessels standing by ... that will evacuate those people," Mr Press said.


The tourists would likely then be returned to Ushuaia, on the southern tip of the South American continent, he said.

The navy statement said the cruise ship "had run aground" but was in no danger of sinking.

It is not the first cruise ship to have trouble in the Antarctica recently.

In December last year, the Norwegian MS Fram carrying about 300 people lost engine power during an electrical outage and struck a glacier, smashing a lifeboat but causing no injuries.

On November 24 last year, another cruise vessel, the MS Explorer hit an iceberg and sank hours later. All 154 passengers and crew took to lifeboats in the icy waters and were rescued.

- AP with Arjun Ramachandran