of Communications faculty member Kenn Gaither and Elon students
Kelly Richards and Jenn Gilbert are safe after the ship that served
as their roaming classroom was disabled in a raging storm by large
waves in the Pacific Ocean.
happened Jan. 26, a week after Gaither, Richards and Gilbert, along
with 679 other people, left Vancouver for a "Semester at Sea." The
program takes students to countries around the world while offering
on-board classes in a variety of subjects. Gaither has worked on
previous Semester at Sea voyages, and he is serving as an
and educator on this particular voyage.
M/V Explorer was caught in a storm about 650 miles from the Aleutian
Islands in gale-force winds, and two giant waves damaged its bridge
and navigation equipment. The
near-disaster garnered a great deal of national and international
Here is a brief
excerpt from the Feb. 4 Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, Richards' hometown
everybody to put life jackets on. After that, they started separating
the men and the women, and everybody got really scared," said Richards,
19, recalling the Jan. 26 incident one week later in a telephone
interview from Honolulu. "We were afraid we were going to have to
go in the lifeboats. People were crying. People were thinking we
were going to die."
Guard dispatched a 378-foot cutter from Alaska to the stricken ship,
and also called on four nearby merchant vessels to assist. Three
long-range aircraft were sent - two from Alaska and one from Hawaii
- said a Coast Guard official.
for the Institute for Shipboard Education said one of the ship's
four engines was operating again within 20 minutes of the initial
failure. For a time, the single engine was barely able to keep the
ship's bow aimed correctly in the heavy seas, according to the Coast
Guard. The ship arrived on Jan. 31 in Hawaii, a port that had not
been on the itinerary, and stops in Korea and Japan were canceled.
The students and faculty members took flights to China and returned
to their studies.
of a forthcoming book on corporate communications, experienced an
unplanned immersion in the art of crisis communications, as he helped
manage the situation on the ship.
the Pittsburgh-based Institute for Shipboard Education, the Semester
at Sea combines on-board university-level courses in subjects such
as world literature with stops in countries such as South Korea,
India, South Africa and Brazil. Tuition is $14,000 to $16,000 per