I recieved news this morning that the Explorer, the little red ship that was instrumental in the begining of Antarctic tourism, has sunk in the South Shetland Islands. I spent a little time onboard this ship one of the times it visited Palmer Station many years ago. Many of my friends spent a lot of time on this ship. It was built in 1969 by Lars Erik Lindblad specifically for expediton cruising and was the first passenger vessel to venture south of the Antarctic Circle. There was a lot of history in that ship and to hear of her demise is sad news indeed. Apparently many of the passengers were rescued by the Endeavour, the ship I just got off of, but were then transfered to a larger passenger vessel in the area. More news here and here.
Added at 1152: Roger Tory Peterson was a good friend of Lars Erik and was a frequent lecturer on the Explorer. In his book Penguins, Peterson commented that the Explorer "although it has all the comforts of a small luxury liner... it is really a floating seminarwhere the passengers attend daily lectures on seabirds, whatle, seals, marine biology, icebergs, and Antarctic exploration." He also credits the Explorer for the important role it played in our knowledge of the distribution of birdlife in the Southern Ocean.