Denver woman survives Arctic sinking |

Denver woman survives Arctic sinking

DENVER, Colorado ” It may be a bit of a stretch to put her in the same boat as Molly Brown, but Denver’s Kay Van Horne is definitely unsinkable.

Unlike Brown, when Van Horne’s cruise ship sank a nearby ship came to their rescue in the Antarctic ice.

The 63-year-old recalls cracking jokes, swallowing Dramamine and marveling at how well everything was going, she told the Rocky Mountain News.

The 90 passengers, 54 crew and nine guides were all rescued as the M/S Explorer was sinking last Friday.

“Nobody panicked,” Van Horne said Tuesday after arriving back in Denver. “Everybody got off that boat safely.

“It was just a miracle. But it says an awful lot for everybody, from the captain to the engineering crews to the Zodiac drivers. Everything was lined up in its proper way. They kept us informed every minute.”

The retired middle-school teacher was quickly back in her element, “feeding my little grandbaby. And life can’t get any better than that.”

She had never taken a cruise before because she is prone to seasickness. A voyage to Antarctica was too much to resist.

She was among tourists in GAP Adventures 19-day “Spirit of Shackleton” trip, following in the harrowing steps of adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton. He spent two years on the rescue of a crew he’d been forced to abandon when ice broke up their ship.

The first two weeks was all fun as everyone got to know each other.

“We’d already been out for two weeks, and the company was wonderful,” Van Horne said. “There were just 154 of us and we knew everybody.”

The passengers had been trained in getting on and off small Zodiac inflatable boats used for rescue and transport because they had made several stops on land.

It was just past midnight when the ship met its fate. Van Horne was still up ” playing cards.

“We made jokes about it, but it was the nervous type of jokes, to relieve the tension,” she said. “I went up on the bridge and saw ice all around us. One of the crew had his binoculars out trying to guide us through the ice.

“When I went to my room, I joked with my niece that maybe we should put some long johns on instead of pajamas, because it was going to be a long night. That’s when there was a big hit. We had hit ice before, but this was a little bit different.”

The lights went out and the water poured out the toilets.

Within five minutes everyone was told to go to the highest level of the ship.

“They had us sit in the lecture room and informed us immediately that there was a hole. They were going to try to reposition the boat so they could patch it,” Van Horne said.

Soon after, “Another iceberg, about the size of the boat, hit us,” she said. “That’s when I felt in my heart we were going to abandon the boat.”

Everyone was quickly sent to lifeboats, and again unlike the Titanic, they had enough.

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