The passengers aboard the doomed Viking Polaris cruise ship that hit a ‘rogue wave’ killing an American woman and injuring several other travelers describe the sheer terror of their voyage.
Deborah Terry, 69 and her wife Tamarah Castaneda, 61, were in their cabin on the third floor of the ship – number 3023 – getting ready to retire for the night when the massive wave hit the boat around 10.40pm.
‘It was a horrendous jolt like the ship had ran into a brick wall. We had no experience with a rogue wave before,’ said Terry, an avid traveler who told DailyMail.com that Antarctica was the seventh continent she has traveled too.
The couple say the day after the ‘rogue wave’ hit, the captain got on the loudspeaker to share the news that a fellow passenger had died.
‘Her voice was hesitant … choking,’ Terry recalled. ‘She said, “Unfortunately we lost a passenger in the incident. We are going to cut the trip short. Let’s take a moment of silence.”‘
Deborah Terry, 69 and her wife Tamarah Castaneda were in their cabin on the third floor of the ship getting ready to retire for the night when the massive wave hit the boat around 10:40pm
The couple says the victim, Sheri Zhu, 62, lived in California, had family in Taiwan and that her husband sustained injuries as well. Little is still known about the deceased woman.
Castaneda, a retired firefighter, told DailyMail.com that she initially thought there was an internal explosion on the ship. She said the noise was so powerful it felt as if ‘two cars crashed into each other.’
She said the captain immediately made an announcement over the speakers, saying: ‘Code Delta… Code Delta… This is not a drill… Stay in your cabins.’
Terry said she heard yelling. Then she overhead some of the crew being told that ‘the ship was taking on water’ and were dispatched to the second level of the ship to rescue some of the people from the impacted rooms.
She said after the horrific noise everything suddenly got ‘incredibly quiet.’
‘You couldn’t hear the ship moving. I thought we stopped,’ Castaneda said.
As not to waste any time, she said she began putting a drybag together of items and then another announcement was made that the ship was going to continue moving.
Captain Margrith Ettli had to turn the ship around and head back to Argentina after a passenger shattered her leg on an execution. During the voyage home was when the massive ‘rogue wave’ hit
The young cruise ship, designed for 378 guests, is only two months old and was handed over from the VARD shipyard to the owner Viking Cruises in September
Broken windows are shown on the cruise ship after the rogue wave crashed into it, with a storm brining rough Antarctic waters
Sheri Zhu, 62, died and four were injured when a massive wave smashed into Viking Polaris ship during a storm as it sailed off the southernmost tip of South America
The Viking Polaris cruise ship was sailing Wednesday towards Ushuaia in Argentina — the main starting point for expeditions to Antarctica
Earlier in the day the couple was on a Zodiac Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) with ten other passengers traveling to a land mass in Antarctica. There had been several boats all from the Viking Polaris out on the sea doing the same excursion.
Terry said the weather was getting bad, the wind was very strong and the waves were picking up which while aboard the Zodiac heading back to the ship.
That is when she overheard on the radio, ‘Stand by person injured,’ and found out that a female passenger on another IRB had been seriously injured and another passenger had fallen overboard into the water.
Prior to the massive wave hitting the cruise ship, a passenger shattered her leg while on a Zodiac Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB). The injury was so bad that she needed surgery. A helicopter couldn’t get to them, so the cruise ship had to head back to Argentina
Before the woman’s injury, the couple had planned to go sea kayaking for their next excursion. It was canceled after the Viking Polaris had to turn around and get back to Ushuhia, Argentina – where their voyage started – so the woman could get surgery
On the trip, the couple went on a Zodiac Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) with ten other passengers to travel to a land mass in Antarctica. There were several boats all from the Viking Polaris out on the sea doing the same excursion. One boat had an incident, and a woman shattered her leg
‘The man must have been in the water for a few seconds,’ Terry said.
Their ordeal became more harrowing when they learned the woman’s leg was shattered and needed to go to a hospital for surgery. The ship’s medical team was not able to properly care for her.
‘A helicopter couldn’t come in because of the weather and there were no other ships close to us so,’ Terry said. ‘We were told all the other activities were cancelled. My wife and I understood but we were disappointed.’
The cruise ship had to turn back to Argentina after a passenger was injured. ‘A helicopter couldn’t come in because of the weather and there were no other ships close to us so,’ Terry said. On the way home was when the massive wave hit
The couple overheard on the radio, ‘Stand by person injured,’ and found out that a female passenger on another IRB had been seriously injured and another passenger had fallen overboard into the water
Off-ship excursions were part of the Viking Polaris cruise ship experience
PICTURED: A photo of the excursion itinerary from the luxury $13k-a-trip-liner. It was cut short after they had to turn the ship around for an injured passenger
On the voyage back to Ushuaia, Argentina, where the cruise originally set sail, the storm began picking.
They had to travel through Drake Passage, a body of water that lies between South America’s Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. The Drake Passage is known as one of the most turbulent stretches of ocean in the world.
Terry said when they went through Drake Passage the first time, en route to Antarctica from Ushuaia, it was treacherous but upon their return the weather was far more severe.
‘We were on the third floor and the waves were easily 40 feet high and were breaking through our window,’ Terry said. ‘I had every confidence that we were going to get through this and that the ship would be able to withstand the waves.’
She said as the night went on the swells became more voracious, but despite the catastrophe unfolding they carried on.
‘We went to dinner and our glass of wine slid right off the table and shattered,’ she said. ‘People were dancing and eating and there was no thought there was a catastrophe happening.’
Until a few hours later when the monster wave hit.
The next morning, the couple learned that a passenger had been killed. The captain, Margrith Ettlin – the first female captain of a Viking cruise ship – made the shocking announcement.
‘Her voice was hesitant … choking,’ Terry recalled. ‘She said, ‘Unfortunately we lost a passenger in the incident. We are going to cut the trip short. Let’s take a moment of silence.’
Terry said the feeling was overwhelming. ‘I have been on cruises to Alaska, the Greek Islands, the coast of Italy and have never been on a cruise where a passenger died.’
Castaneda said she thought the woman who perished was the woman, who had been injured on the Zodiac but then realized it was the ‘rogue wave.’
Though the pair did not know the passenger who died, they say another passenger they had met had a chat with the deceased before the tragedy.
Several of the injured passengers that were reeling in shock shared with the couple the absolute terror they endured.
Castaneda said many of these people had lost all their belongings, their ID, luggage, everything in their cabin was gone.
‘They came to the realization that they could have been dragged out of the room and swept out to sea,’ she said.
She described the harrowing scene. ‘I saw people banged up, bandaged and bruised. One man had stitches across his forehead, another woman had a bandage across her head. Another had a huge lump on their head that looked like he had been beaten up with a baseball bat.’
‘No one had clothes. The crew was trying to get them clothes. One man had a one piece suit with no shoes.’
She told DailyMail.com that a passenger who was in the cabin – not far from the one where the American woman identified as Sheri Zhu, 62, perished after getting hit by shards of glass – had a near death experience.
‘The ceiling and walls were collapsing, furniture was flying everywhere’ she said. ‘He told me, ‘F***! I am lucky I didn’t die.’
Once the ship made it back to Ushiara, the injured woman was transported to a hospital while the other passengers traveled to the city or took a bus tour at a National Park until the crew as able to get them back home.
Terry said from her home in San Diego, ‘We will probably not do this again. We made it to Antarctica. Mission accomplished. We have no more vacations planned at this time.’