Reader Aphan posted a comment providing a link to the website of one of the passengers, Janet Rice, an Australian Green politician, who was along on the trip. In it she describes the events of December 23 that led to a delay in the departure of the vessel, and thus causing it to lose the race against the invading sea ice.
Here’s an excerpt from the day’s entry (my emphasis):
The first drama of the day was the sinking – or almost! – of one of the Argos. The Argos are designed to be amphibious – just. They were launched today off the ship – and two of the three made it safely being towed by a zodiac the 50 metres or so to shore. The third was towed too fast it seems – and water came over the bonnet / bow, flooding both the engine and the vehicle itself. Ben tried in vain to bail out with a spade and luckily they made it to shore before the vehicle sunk entirely. Ben ended up rather wet too, but similarly to Mary, not submerged enough for the lifejacket to come into play. Sadly Argo engines don’t take too kindly to being submerged… the ships engineers are still working on it and not very optimistic about its prospects.
The third drama of the day is the one which is still unfolding. Because of the Argo mishap we got off late, and had one less vehicle to ferry people to and fro.I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in. As I write we are continuing to make extremely slow progress through what looks like a winter alpine snow field – it’s yet another surreal part of this journey that we are in a ship trying to barge our way through here! I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier. Maybe we would have made it through the worst before it consolidated as much as it has with the very cold south- easterly winds blowing the ice away from the coast, around and behind us as well as ahead.
We’ll see where we are in the morning – it may be a very white Christmas Eve!
PS. 9.30am 24/12. We have moved less than a kilometre over night, and are now stationary in a sea of ice. The word is that we are not stuck, merely waiting for a weather change. It seems to me that we are having the quintessential Antarctic experience.J Stay tuned.”
Clearly the captain of the ship had gotten antsy and wanted to leave hours sooner. But the passengers’ escapades and dithering likely became the decisive screw-up that led to them getting trapped in ice for 10 days and turning the expedition into a debacle for the world to see.