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Passengers unhurt after Antarctic ship hits iceberg

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One hundred passengers and crew escaped unhurt after their cruise ship hit an iceberg in the Antarctic and started sinking, an Argentine coast guard official and the ship's owner said.

A Norwegian passenger boat in the area picked up the occupants of the M/S Explorer from the lifeboats they used to escape the ship, which ran into problems off King George Island in Antarctica at around 4:30pm AEDT, the company running the ship said.

Captain Arnvid Hansen of the Norwegian cruise ship the Nordnorge, said he had successfully picked up all the passengers and crew from the stricken liner in lifeboats, and that they appeared to be in good health.

"All are aboard my vessel," he told Britain's BBC television. "There are no afraid passengers or anything like that."

"Apparently they crashed into an iceberg," Pedro Tuhay, of the Argentine coast guard, told local radio as operations continued to save the vessel.

"The boat's got a 23-degree list, but it's keeping steady very well."

Susan Hayes, a spokeswoman for Canada-based travel company Gap Adventures which owns the vessel, told CNN: "The ship was travelling out of Ushuaia in Argentina, travelling southbound to Antarctica, and off King George Island it hit some ice and began taking on some water,"

In a statement, the company said a total of 100 passengers and crew were on board the ship. Earlier reports had put the number at 154, but a spokesman said that was the ship's maximum capacity.

It said the passengers included Americans, British, Canadians, Australians, Dutch, Japanese, Argentines and other nationalities.

The ship, built in 1969, was carrying 85 passengers and 15 crew on a cruise that was due to end by November 26, a company spokesman said.

The Explorer usually makes two-week cruises around the Antarctic, costing around 4,000 pounds ($A9,280) per cabin. Smaller than most cruise ships, the ship is able to enter narrower bays off the barren continent. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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