'Freezing and Very Seasick' Cruise Survivor Recalls Rescue

Passengers of The Explorer grateful to be alive after five hours in icy waters.

Nov. 25, 2007 — -- Survivors of The Explorer, the cruise ship that struck an iceberg and sank in the Antarctic, have begun to recount their frigid rescue as "terrifying" and the ultimate "adventure."

About half of the 154 passengers and crew are on their way home from Chile, where they were taken after the accident.

Tourists aboard The Explorer paid $14,000 for a 19-day adventure at sea, and definitely got more than they bargained for.

One relieved passenger said, "They promised us an adventure, but I didn't think they ever intended to make it this good."

After the ship hit the iceberg and started to sink in the middle of the night, the passengers were herded into small lifeboats, bobbing in water a few degrees below freezing.

American passenger Eli Charney told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" in a phone call from Chile that the four of five hours he spent in a lifeboat was terrifying.

"I feared, I thought I was going to lose my toes, I was freezing out there," Charney said. "Our room flooded very quickly and I was able to get my jacket. I got some pants. I didn't have a hat. I didn't have gloves, and I was freezing and very seasick on the lifeboat."

Passengers were lucky because conditions that night were calm, with relatively little wind.

They were eventually rescued by a passing cruise ship and brought to a Chilean military base where they got fed, clothed and checked by military officers.

"They treated us perfect," said one passenger. "We were happy for the hospitality. We had beds, big mattresses, and blankets, and nice food and a cold beer."

Charney, like the other survivors, was grateful for the way things turned out.

"It changes the way you think about things," he said.

Ironically, The Explorer was on a voyage in the spirit of Earnest Shackleton, whose expedition in those same waters nearly a 100 years ago left him and his crew stranded on ice for months after the ship got stuck in the ice and sank not far from where The Explorer went down.