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Cruise ship battles 100 knot winds and 40 feet waves

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Sort of reminds one of the storm scene from "Das Boot".


The cruise ship damaged by massive waves this week while returning from Antarctica has made it back to her home port of Ushuaia, Argentina, and first-hand accounts describing a "terrifying" ordeal have begun to emerge.


One of the 88 passengers on board the storm-tossed Clelia II, Frank Dougherty, tells the Philadelphia Daily News today he thought he was going to die as the ship fought through monster waves in the Drake Passage that reached 30 to 40 feet high.


"I thought this was it," Dougherty, a former Daily News writer, told the news outlet in a phone call from Ushuaia. "I never came so close to cashing it in."


One huge wave smashed a railing into the ship's bridge, knocking out all communication, including radar, Dougherty tells the Daily News. The vessel was "violently shaking and twisting," he says, noting the wind was gusting up to 100 miles per hour.


Dougherty tells the news outlet he began imagining that if the ship went down, "they'd never find the bodies. You couldn't even think about putting out lifeboats in that sea."


The Clelia II reached Ushuaia late Thursday.


In a statement, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators says a large wave that broke the ship's starboard bridge window and doused electrical circuitry was the cause of widely reported propulsion problems on the ship (the video above, filmed by another expedition ship in the area and distributed by the Associated Press, shows the Clelia II struggling with high seas during the incident).


"This caused a temporary loss of communications and affected engine performance," the statement says. "Both engines remained operational and speed was reduced."


The association says no passengers on the ship were injured during the incident, although a bridge officer knocked down by the wave that broke through the bridge window sustained minor injuries. The vessel, operated by New York-based Travel Dynamics International and owned by Helios Shipping Greece, will be inspected for damage in Ushuaia.


The Antarctic cruise ship forced to declare an emergency earlier this week after being slammed by 30-foot waves limped into port in Argentina overnight.


The 165 people on board the Clelia II appeared relieved and smiling.


"They treated us well … so we're lucky to be here … happy to be here," one passenger said.


"We'll go home with a great story," another passenger said.


Linda and Ken Mates said that they were told to expect a rough journey from the moment the ship set sail Nov. 30 from Ushuaia, Argentina.


"We had rough seas going down, they were probably 30-foot waves. ... We spent three days going down and then when we came back, we got into some heavier stuff and that's when the captain idled out," Lisa Mates said.


On Dec. 7, while returning from the Antarctic, 30- to 40-foot waves pounded the ship as it passed through the Drake Passage, an area known for its rough seas. The waves knocked out communications on the ship and partially disabled the ship's engine.


Passengers said that the rough seas created chaos inside the ship, with garbage cans rolling down halls, men and women flipping over in their chairs and being launched out of bed.


"The ship rolled and the next thing you know you saw peoples' feet going over even though they were sitting down … the chairs just plain tipped over," one passenger said.


The Mates couple said that despite the rough seas, none of the 88 American passengers was injured and only one of the 77 crew members was hurt.


"The staff was there to help people maneuver around so that no one would get hurt," Linda Mates said.


The galley continued to operate throughout most of the ordeal providing meals to the passengers, she said.


Jon Bowermaster, an expert Antarctica adventurer, has taken 20 trips to the region and knows the dangers first hand.


"That's like slamming into a three story building repeatedly … it hits the waves, stops, hits the waves, stops. If you're in the boat, you're going to be tossed around a lot," Bowermaster said.


The Mates couple said that they knew the risk heading into the cruise and they don't regret the trip.


"To go to Antarctica, it was well worth it. We'd do it again," Ken Mates said.


The company that owns the ship told ABC News that they plan to charter a plane to fly passengers home tomorrow. All passengers are expected to get a full refund, too.

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The waters down that end of the world have always and always will be dangerous even in these modern times... and remember they used to sail down there with wooden ships !!!

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Remind me to not book a trip to there on a ship that size.



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I don't think that I would want to be there even if it was in a Nimitz Class(CVN).

I was lucky. The few times I was on a boat(CVA,LPH,LST,LPD),the seas weren't that bad.

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