The polar expedition cruising vessel Polar Star will remain in number four dry-dock until mid-May undergoing repairs after an inspection has revealed extensive bottom damage caused when Polar Star hit an uncharted rock in South Georgia during an Antarctic cruise in February.

Captain Asbjorn Endresen Polar Star's 63-year-old Norwegian master described the events leading up to the dramatic moment when his ice-breaking ship hit the uncharted isolated rock in King Haakon Bay on the northern side of South Georgia.

"This year has been very bad for icebergs, both large and small in Antarctic waters. I followed a well-known line of soundings while entering King Haakon Bay to allow passengers to go close inshore and ashore in our ten 16-man Zodiac inflatables. We were following in the steps of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton," said Asbjorn.

The ship was carrying 90 passengers on a "Great Antarctic Expedition" cruise when the accident happened. Asbjorn explained how a large iceberg hampered navigation during the ship's departure from King Haakon Bay.

"On the outward passage a large iceberg had drifted very close to our intended departure track. Polar Star was travelling at about five knots and we had to deviate slightly to avoid the iceberg. Then in 70 metres of water the ship suddenly hit a rock. All around the ship was deep water. But that is of little consolation in such a situation. The Hydrographic Office now knows of its existence and has promulgated a navigation warning," said Asbjorn.

King Haakon Bay is where polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and five companions landed after an epic 500-mile trip from Elephant Island, five hundred miles south of Cape Horn to South Georgia, in the eight-metre long whaler James Caird during the Antarctic winter of 1916. Shackleton is buried at Grytviken, where Polar Star went for an initial inspection after grounding.

The ship went to Ushuaia for temporary repairs allowing her to complete part of the cruise before she left for the UK.

Polar Star, the former Swedish icebreaker Noord is a typical Baltic icebreaker. She is equipped with two forward propellers which in the Baltic operation were used to chop up the year old ice after the ice strengthened bows cracked the ice. "These propellers are only used for manoeuvring now," said Asbjorn, who was operations manager for Polar Star Expeditions until last year when he decided to return to sea for the final few years before he retires.

The 5,000 ton Polar Star is expected to sail from Falmouth in mid-May for Portland where she will embark passengers for a cruise "Remote Coastal Regions of the UK" cruise.

HMS Endurance the Royal Navy Ice Patrol vessel is stemmed for number four drydock in June when she begins a multi-million pound four-month long refit. The ship is currently enroute to the UK from Antarctica.