(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The cruise ship Prinsendam was built in 1973 for Holland America Line. It was somewhat smaller than average size for its day, carrying about 350 passengers and 200 crew. Just after midnight on 4 October 1980, a fire broke out in the engine room as the ship was transiting the Gulf of Alaska. Shortly thereafter, the master sent a message to the US Coast Guard requesting assistance.
The ship was then 120 miles south of Cape Spencer and outside the range of USCG helicopters. The US Coast Guard advised the Master to send out an SOS, but he refused. The chief radio officer sent one anyway. Ships in the area responded, including the tanker Williamsburg and the USCG vessel Boutwell, which served as the on-scene coordinator. The Master gave the order to abandon the ship at sunrise.
The US Coast Guard, Air Force, and Canadian Forces dispatched long-range helicopters, which carried persons from the lifeboats to the ship Williamsburg. The Prinsendam was taken under tow, but the fire could not be extinguished and the ship was listing heavily in deteriorating weather. Permission to bring the ship into sheltered waters was denied by the US Coast Guard, but probably had no impact, as the ship sank shortly thereafter.
On October 11, 1980, the Prinsendamcapsized and sunk, only 7 years after being built.
The Williamsburg brought 359 passengers and crew safely to Valdez.
There were no fatalities and no serious injuries.
In April 1981, Popular Mechanics magazine published an article about the disaster, reproduced here.
Watch the below video from the media coverage at the time:
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