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Originally published Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 8:15 AM

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Ice breaker frees cruise ship in Quebec

Cruise ship carrying 300 is freed by ice breaker after being lodged in ice for more than 30 hours.

The Associated Press

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TORONTO — A cruise ship carrying 300 passengers that was lodged in thick ice in the St. Lawrence River was freed Tuesday after more than 30 hours with the help of a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker.

Leonard Arsenault, a spokesman for the cruise ship CTMA-Vacancier, said passengers left Montreal on Sunday, headed to the Gaspe Peninsula for a weeklong ski trip in the Chic-Choc mountains. Ice closed in around the ship on Monday near Matane, Quebec.

"Because it was so cold and windy, the wind blew ice from Montreal down into the St. Lawrence River at high speeds and it became very thick, which is why the ship became stuck there for so long," said Arsenault.

Passenger James Gray said the cruise ship hit the icepack about five miles (8 kilometers) into the trip.

"All of a sudden, there was this loud, grinding noise and we knew we were really in a fix," said Gray, a documentary filmmaker who managed to capture the incident on film.

Gray said the cruise ship was among four other vessels that became trapped in the ice within a four-mile (6.4 kilometer) radius.

A cargo ship, a passenger ferry and an ice breaker that was deployed to assist the vessels also became lodged in the frigid waters. Gray said the cruise ship eventually helped free the ice breaker in a "funny turn of events".

The Camille Marcoux ferry was stuck in the ice on Sunday but managed to make it to port on Monday.

Coast Guard media relations officer Nathalie Letendre said the second Coast Guard ice breaker was deployed Tuesday to the area, helping to free the cargo ship and cruise ship, carrying a total of 500 people. The cruise ship continued on toward the ski area, the company said.

Gray, the filmmaker, said that while the ship was stuck, the group ended up having a 24-hour party on board.

"Musicians have been playing guitar, there are poets, people dancing, good food and wine, and we're surrounded by stunning scenery," said Gray.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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