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April 7th, 2012 started just like every other day for the 76-ft. Brazilian research vessel Mar Sem Fim (“Endless Sea”). Unfortunately the vessel would become stuck in the ice and overcome by severe ice compression and strong winds.

The Mar Sem Fim would sit in about 30 feet (9m) of water, preserved in its shallow arctic environment.

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The Mar Sem Fim in better days

Sinking

ES-2The Mar Sem Fim is owned by famed Brazilian journalist João Lara Mesquita, and was manned by a crew of four researchers filming a documentary in Maxwell Bay of the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica.

The crew ran into difficulties when the ship became stuck in the ice in Maxwell Bay of Ardley Cove, Antarctica (left, click to enlarge).

When the weather turned, the ship started to list. The waves were several meters high, and the 40-knot winds made recovery progress difficult. The ship was tossed from one side to the other “like a bucking bronco in a rodeo,” according to one crew member.

All four researchers were eventually rescued unharmed by the Chilean Navy, who operate the closest manned facility, Chilean Antarctic base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva. The Chileans had to wait for weather conditions to be safe enough to approach to stranded vessel.

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The crew was rescued just in time; near-freezing water had been tossed over the ship, would later freeze, and then split the hull when it expanded.

This phenomena is called compression, and is what was later determined to have been the final blow to the hull of the Mar Sem Fim, sending her to the bottom of the shallow bay.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

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Sinking pictures courtesy Ruslan Eliseev, Ruschili, AFP PHOTO/CHILEAN NAVY

Recovery Efforts

In early 2013, owner João Lara Mesquita managed to return to the site and attempt to rescue the Mar Sem Fim. When the weather cooperated, divers wrapped strong lines under the hull and attached them to inflated buoys on either side.

They would add more buoys which would all be continuously inflated, slowly raising the vessel that had been underwater for almost a year.

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(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

Once the vessel was surfaced, it was towed back to the shore where the researchers will recover their equipment and the Mar Sem Fim will most likely head for salvage.

The ship was reportedly insured for $700,000; however, the breached hull and damage from being submerged for 10 months would seem to indicate the vessel is beyond repair.

Now, recently retrieved from the bottom of Maxwell Bay, the Mar Sem Fim limps awaiting her fate.

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ES-16recovery pictures courtesy marsemfim.com.br

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8 COMMENTS

  1. It´s just another example for dilettantism. This ship was already in trouble in Antarctic waters in December 2009 when it had to be rescued. Then, some years later they provoke this accident. It´s a shame and a paradigm what problems unregulated yacht tourism might cause.

  2. I’ve found the picture (where you can see her right beneath the surface) online many times with very little luck into finding more about her history and why she went down. So thanks a lot for this post. I finally found out more about her. Plus, the pictures are great.

    Thanks a ton for such an interesting blog!

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