The ship was originally built as the BEWA Discoverer in 1974. The ship was sold to BEWA Cruises out of Denmark. In July 1976, the vessel was again sold to Adventure Cruises Inc. and was renamed the World Discoverer. The ship also became a long term charter to Society Expeditions. In 1976, the ship was registered in Singapore. In 1987, Society Expedition came under new ownership and was renamed Society Expedition Cruises with offices in Seattle and Germany. The new owner of the ship was Discoverer Reederei who also has ownership of other vessels such as MS Explorer. In 1990, she was registered in Liberia under the name World Discoverer. The vessel had a double hull construction allowing for periodic voyages to Antarctic Peninsula region for its passengers to observe ice floe movements and protection for any minor impacts. In 1996, the ship was refurbished under the new name, World Discoverer. It carried a fleet of inflatable dinghies allowing passenger to move closer to ice floes for observation.
During the period from November through February (Austral summer), the World Discoverer conducted cruises in the Southern Hemisphere and visited places like Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, Chile, Ushuaia, Argentina. Between March and May, the ship cruised the South Pacific Islands. It also cruised this area between the months of August and October. Between the months of June and August, the ship cruised around the Alaskan region and also the Russian border around the Bering Sea. The World Discoverer was classified as a Swedish/Finnish 1A Ice class allowing the ship to withstand minor floe impacts. The World Discoverer also had a 8,000 miles (13,000 km) cruising range allowing her to travel the Northwest Passage. The ship was captained by Oliver Kruess who was also served as Chief Mate aboard the ship at one point. Society Expeditions also hired a small team of experienced expedition leaders to answer any tourist questions concerning the region, ice floes, their movements, and the ship’s destinations. A small fleet of dinghies landed passengers on various shorelines for observation of local wildlife in the area. Each day comprised typically two to three expeditions to the shoreline. The expeditions were led by geologists, historians, naturalists, and marine biologists. The ship was equipped with an observation lounge, medical center with an active physician, library, sun deck with a small swimming pool, small fitness center, and a lecture hall. Just over 700 tourists have traveled to Antarctica on the World Discoverer each season in the past years.
On Sunday April 30, 2000, at 4:00 pm local time (0500 GMT), the ship struck a large uncharted rock or reef on the Sandfly Passage, Solomon Islands. Captain Oliver Kruess sent a distress signal, which was received by Solomon Islands capital Honiara. A passenger ferry was dispatched to the ship where all passengers were then transported to safety. The captain then brought the ship into Roderick Bay after it began to list 20 degrees and grounded it to avoid sinking. After underwater surveying of the ship, the World Discoverer was declared a “constructive loss”. The ship has remained in Roderick Bay ever since. There were no reports of any oil, petroleum or other pollutant spills as a result of the impact.
Michael Lomax, President of Society Expeditions, congratulated the captain and their crew for their heroic and professional actions saying that they performed in an “exemplary manner” during the crisis. The ship was scheduled to have its annual dry-dock inspection on May 11 when annual maintenance work would have been completed. Also planned were the addition of two additional suites on the boat deck and also the installation of a new fire protection system throughout the ship.
The World Discoverer still sits in Roderick Bay on Nggela Island with a 46 degree list. The closest salvage companies to try and salvage the ship station out of Australia found the ship ransacked by the locals and other factions. The Solomon Islands were undergoing civil war; the ship was boarded by locals who took the equipment and other critical devices. Further tidal activity also damaged the ship even more. The ship has now been sustaining surface rusting with many of the windows removed. The ship became a tourist attraction with the locals of the island as well as other cruise lines, which pass by the World Discoverer, including MV Princess II.
In the aftermath of the crisis, Society Expedition refurbished an ice class vessel called the new World Discoverer, launched in 2002, resuming cruises again. Society Expedition ceased operations in June 2004 after their new vessel was seized by creditors in Nome, Alaska. Two weeks later, Society Expedition filed chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy in July 2004.
Aerial footage of the wreck on Youtube
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