Rogue Wave Hits Viking Polaris Cruise Ship Killing One Passenger

A rogue wave struck a Viking Cruises ship on November 29, leaving one person deceased and four others injured. Passengers recall the Viking Polaris wave incident as feeling like the ship had “run into a brick wall.”

The ship was sailing towards Ushuaia in Argentina, the starting point for expeditions to Antarctica.

The victim – Sheri Zhu, a 62-year-old American woman according to the Associated Press – was hit by broken glass when the wave struck cabin windows.

“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” said Viking in a statement. “We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies. We will continue to offer our full support to the family in the hours and days ahead.”

In Viking’s statement, the cruise company also reported that The Polaris surprisingly “sustained limited damage.”

“Rogue waves” like the one in this incident are extremely uncommon. According to the National Ocean Service, the “walls of water” can be twice the size of surrounding waves.

Photo Credit: Viking Cruises
Photo Credit: Viking Cruises

One Passenger’s Harrowing Experience

Daily Mail spoke with Deborah Terry, 69, who was aboard the ship with her wife about their experience.

‘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 was traveling to her seventh continent, Antarctica.

The next morning, the couple learned one passenger didn’t survive the terrifying event. Captain Margrith Ettlin – the first female captain of a Viking cruise ship – informed passengers in an 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.”

The ship eventually made it back to Ushiara, where injured passengers were transported to the hospital while other passengers traveled to the city or took a bus tour at a National Park until the crew could get them back home.

In a recent update, the company made the decision to cancel its December 2023 Antarctic Explorer expedition, presumably as it continues to investigate safety issues.

A version of this story was initially reported by Out Traveler.

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