He and Lynne boarded the Zodiac and approached Cape Wild, named for Shackleton’s first mate, Frank Wild, who had been left in charge of the 21 men who waited there for Shackleton. “It looked forlorn,” Pete remembers. “There were chinstrap penguins on the snow—there should have been bare ground at this time of the year.” The winds were whipping off the glacier at some 60 miles per hour, preventing any chance of landing.
That evening in his regular briefing, Captain Bengt Wiman reported that the ship was heading into heavy ice. After dinner the D’Angelos went to their cabin early. Lee, the British nurse, stayed up to watch the movie, while Kay played cards with couples from the Netherlands and England. “The ice kept getting tighter and tighter,” Kay remembers. “At one point I said that maybe we should be watching Titanic.”
Kay and her 39-year-old niece, Lisa Paisola, who were traveling together, decided to go up on the bridge. “You could see the captain and first mate straining to see the ice,” Kay says. Then she adds, “I felt uneasy when we finally went to our cabin. I said maybe we should put on our long johns, that it was going to be a long night. Then there was a thump.”
In her cabin, Lee also heard the sound of splintering ice and the shudder of the ship. Something wasn’t right, she told Andy; she thought they should go up on deck. A sharp bang sent them to a window, and they watched as a large piece of ice went by with a red stain on it. “Is that blood?” Lee asked. “No, not blood,” Andy answered. “Paint.” Gouged from the Little Red Ship. Not long after, the general alarm sounded three times, and the voice of the captain came over the loudspeaker: “This is a real emergency. Go to the muster stations.”
On the bottom deck, Pete D’Angelo scooped up a two-gigabyte memory card from his camera, containing the pictures he had taken so far, and tucked it into his pocket. Now the water was ankle-deep in one end of the cabin. He picked up a tennis shoe, then watched as the other floated under the bed. When it washed back out again, he grabbed it. A voice on the loudspeaker said to bring Arctic wear, so he snatched his and Lynne’s thermals, fleece liners, and Gore-Tex jackets.
It was a solemn group that gathered up top. The tension was palpable, yet there were no hysterics—no one lost control. Captain Wiman, speaking in measured tones, explained that a mayday had been sent, that two ships were on their way but were six to ten hours away. Every ten minutes or so the group was updated: Something had punctured a fist-size hole in the hull. The engines were pumping out water. Like most ships, the Explorer had been designed with watertight doors, which could be sealed off if a hole was punched in a compartment. But if several compartments were affected, if a seam gave way or a crack developed, the flooding might not be contained. At this point the captain knew everyone would need to leave the ship, but he hoped they could stay onboard until the rescuers arrived. Cell phones came out; calls home were made; messages left: “Don’t worry....Rescue ships are on their way.... I’ll be fine.” And then, just in case, a quivering “I love you.” After that, there was nothing to do but wait and hope.
Then the engines faltered and the lights went out. Without power the engines could not continue pumping out the seawater, could not maneuver to avoid scraping up against a large iceberg that had appeared on the starboard side. By now the Explorer was listing noticeably. The phrase "righting moment curve" came into Andy’s mind. It refers to the ability of a ship to remain upright and stable; “I knew that at some further angle of list, the righting moment would go negative and the ship would roll over and sink.” It was critical to get the lifeboats launched while there was time. Suddenly the captain’s words shattered the gathering dread: Abandon ship. Abandon ship. Abandon ship.