You Know, Ships Can Sink…

I mentioned how seeing all the ice begin to encroach on the ship made us nervous. In reality, I’m sure it didn’t bother Lou at all. But just six months before, a ship similar to ours hit an iceberg and sank – anybody remember the Titanic? The MS Explorer went down in Antarctica’s freezing waters, with 154 passengers and crew aboard.

Fortunately, all were rescued, after having to spend 4-5 hours in an open life raft in the bitter cold. I’m glad no one had to share space on a floating door (another Titanic reference, where Rose survived on the door, but poor Jack froze to death).

I had visions of this message:

Seriously, we weren’t too worried about our ship. Turns out our Russian Captain was very experienced, and the ship that sank had an inexperienced Swedish Captain, and did not have a double protective steel hull.

I didn’t mention that this was a Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Tour. They have run many tours in Spitsbergen, and haven’t lost a client yet. Van Os charters a whole boat for their trips, and everything is geared to photography. Apparently there are brokers and expedition companies out there who provide the ships, so there are many more options than just the well known ones like National Geographic. Many of the ships who do the summer expeditions in Svalbard return to the South for the Antarctica cruising season – November through March.

Since I had so few photos from our time on board the M/V Professor Molchanov, I did some research on the internet. The ship was commissioned in 1982. It is 236 feet long, 42 feet wide, with a draft of 15 feet. It is powered by two 1560 hp Diesel engines.

Found a few photos online, but not many. I’m not sure you can see much on this deck plan, but our cabin was the blue one on the top right of the photo, on Deck 5. Click for a larger version of the deck plan.


The photo above is a triple cabin … there are two lower beds – one more behind the curtain on the right, and a top bunk. There is a desk, and a small amount of storage space. Passengers in these cabins share a bathroom with others on their deck. Apparently these cabins always sell out first, since they are the least expensive. Hmmm … maybe when we were much much younger.

This is the dining room, and was also used as a lecture room. Note the chairs are welded to the floor – comes in handy when the seas are rough.
This is the bar – it was the only common area where people could hang out and get out of their rooms. Fortunately, our room had a nice seating area so we weren’t dependent on using the bar for photo downloading and such.
The bridge — looks a lot like the control room from a 1950’s Cement Plant. Passengers were welcomed on the bridge, and it was a good place to see the sights from inside the ship.
Click for a larger image. This gives some of the ship’s history, and the next slide talks about our ship’s shady background.


The story about the Criminal Case was interesting. Apparently the bureaucrats in charge of the ship when it was strictly a research vessel were accused of illegally leasing it out to expedition charter companies … oops. Fortunately, the ship was not confiscated while we were on board.

I hope you found the trivia interesting. You can see the ship was not luxurious, but it was comfortable and had everything we needed for our ten day expedition. And, of course, you know we didn’t sink in the Arctic Ocean, since we are alive and mostly well in Maine.



Should we have come to our demise onboard the Professor Molchanov, I’d like to think we would have gone out singing … “Our hearts will go on …”

Click HERE to get back to the real story

Categories: Svalbard, Travel

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2 replies »

  1. OMG what a classic photo and you both look exactly like the 2 from the movie…spitting images…from now on, I am going to call you Leo and what’s her name…seems like a bit of an anxious trip however…was your cabin door easily removable?.. AMY

    • Haha. Thanks. Me and Leo. Fortunately we did not sink so no doors needed. Did you see what Celine Dion told Jimmy Fallon about the door? … “He didn’t need an invitation …”

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