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Wave damages ‘Semester at Sea’ ship

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A 50-foot Pacific wave temporarily disabled a “Semester at Sea” ship filled with hundreds of college students Wednesday, injuring two crew members as it broke windows and damaged the vessel’s controls, the Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard vessels and aircraft from Alaska and Hawaii were dispatched to help the 591-foot Explorer, about 650 miles south of the Aleutian Islands and about 1,600 miles from Honolulu.

The ship for a time operated on just one of its four engines and could do little more than keep the bow headed into heavy seas using emergency steering. By Wednesday evening, a second engine had been started and the ship was making headway at a speed of about 10 knots, or about 11.5 mph, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Glynn Smith in Alameda, Calif.

Jim Lawrence, a spokesman for V. Ships, the technical managers of the ship, said no one was critically hurt but he did not have details on injuries. He said the ship may head to Midway Island, about 800 miles away.

The weather in the region has been unsettled recently, with winds gusting to 50 mph or more.

“Semester at Sea” is a global comparative study-abroad program for undergraduate students, said Paul Watson, director of enrollment management for the Institute for Shipboard Education. The program is academically sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

The 100-day voyage began Jan. 18 in Vancouver, British Columbia, with 990 people aboard: 681 students, 113 faculty and staff and 196 crew members.

The ship never lost internal electrical power and maintained good communications with the Coast Guard, Smith said. A medical staff of two doctors and two nurses is on board.


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