Engine fire forces Spiritwood Lake couple off cruise shipAround 9 a.m. on Sept. 14, Willard and Alice Hareland, were eating breakfast in the dining room of the MS Nordlys a mile off the coast Alesund, Norway. An hour later they would be riding a lifeboat to shore skipping on the waves as the luxury liner billowed black smoke behind them.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
SPIRITWOOD LAKE, N.D. — Around 9 a.m. on Sept. 14, Willard and Alice Hareland, were eating breakfast in the dining room of the MS Nordlys a mile off the coast Alesund, Norway. An hour later they would be riding a lifeboat to shore skipping on the waves as the luxury liner billowed black smoke behind them.
The incident made international news, and the Harelands from Spiritwood Lake, N.D., at the time were only one floor above it.
“When we were eating breakfast we kind of smelt something and Willard said ‘I smell diesel fuel’ and I said I did too, and we waited for a few minutes and then the fire alarm went off,” Alice said.
What was supposed to be a 14-day cruise around the coast of Norway to above the Arctic Circle was shortened on the first full day. An engine fire killed two crew members, left nine injured and forced the evacuation of all 207 passengers and the entire crew.
The Harelands followed the crew’s instructions up one level to the fifth floor as they waited to board lifeboats.
“Very calm,” Willard said of the passengers and crew. “It was not like the ‘Titanic’ movie. The crew did an incredible job of getting us off.”
The Harelands had been on eight cruises before this one and each time before the ship leaves port they have gone through the safety procedure. They said they never thought they would need to know the protocol.
“After the safety thing the night before I asked the safety officer how many times you had to use these lifejackets and he said ‘never,’” Alice said.
After the passengers left the MS Nordlys, it was towed to shore when the boat began to tilt, at one point it was at a 21.7 degree angle and was in danger of tipping over. But the Harelands were safe and dry by then.
“The first day they were very concerned it was going to sink or roll,” Alice said of the company that owns the ship, Hurtigruten.
The company also went room to room and gathered necessity items for each passenger, which in most cases was a set of car keys, a cell phone, wallet or computer. The Harelands had everything on them they needed.
While they were waiting for emergency passports, Hurtigruten gave each passenger enough money for any necessities and two days worth of clothing.
Over the next four days each passenger was taken on a city tour, fjord cruise, and to a local aquarium. The trip ended with a nine-hour bus ride for an international flight home.
Still more than two weeks later, the Harelands are without their luggage. Their room was located a few floors above the engine fire.
The Harelands consider themselves lucky. If they were out at sea, hundreds of miles away from the shore — like on a previous cruise — and a fire broke out at night, things could have easily been different.
“Had it happened in that part of the water, in the middle of the night, it would have been a different story for sure,” Alice said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com