Danish ferry avoids tragedy
In the early morning of September 7, 1966 – following a delay due to severely adverse weather conditions – the ferry “Skagerak” set sail from Kristiansand, Norway, bound for the port of Hirtshals, Denmark. Just one year after its maiden voyage, this advanced vessel with a capacity of 760 passengers, was designed to weather the strong winds and 15-meter-tall waves at sea that day.
Meanwhile, disaster struck when a colossal breaking wave knocked in the rear door, causing water to flood into the car deck and engine room. The ferry’s engines stalled, and the pumps were unable to keep up with the water gushing in. Now at the mercy of the elements, the ship’s captain broadcast distress signals and ordered a full evacuation.
As soon as the SOS call was received by Skagen Radio, an impressive international rescue operation was launched with as many as 4,000 people, 18 large ships, 13 fishing boats, 9 airplanes and 8 helicopters. Two hospitals were also put on high alert, with a large staff of doctors and nurses on standby to receive survivors. The rescue team had no idea what to expect, but they knew that the ferry was carrying many children among its passengers, including an entire seventh grade class from the Danish town of Horsens, returning home from a field trip to Norway.