An incident which many of the crew of Orion’s Orion II will not forget happened on her inaugural voyage on July 24, 2011. With a full load of invited guests – all previous Orion travellers – the ship had left Seattle, cruised up the Canadian coast via the Inside Passage, stopped off at Alaska, and was on its way across the Bering Sea when something odd happened.
“We were sailing out of Dutch Harbor, and about 6.45pm, we were having our briefing, when all of a sudden the ship started shaking, especially in the back end,” said Steve Webber, Orion II’s hotel manager. “We were holding on to our seats. We’d just left port about half an hour prior to this. Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked at each other. Did we hit something?”
“I thought we’d run aground,” said Sarina Bratton, founder and managing director of Orion Expedition Cruises. “So I walked to the bridge to see the captain. I’d immediately gone into crisis management mode: Do we have to abandon ship? How far were we from land, that sort of thing.”
Was there a leakage? Did they hit a whale? It turned out they had experienced an earthquake.
“I think it was 7-point-something on the Richter scale. It was quite an experience for the guests. We were 26 miles from the epicentre of an earthquake, and what we felt were the compression waves,” said Bratton. “That night, so many people got very drunk from sheer relief, I think. We did have two geologists who were very excited about what was happening though.”
Thanks to their onboard fleet of Zodiac boats, they can head to even the remotest of destinations. “Unless you have a helicopter or a yacht, you can’t go to many of our places,” said Bratton.
She added: “The days of sipping a cocktail and putting your feet up are gone.”