PERIL AT PYRAMIDEN: Historic seal-hunting boat takes on water at ice edge as 13 aboard prepare to abandon ship, but stays afloat until help arrives


A boat notorious for its former seal-hunting history that started taking in water in the engine room after suffering a leak Friday morning at the ice edge near Pyramiden had the 13 people aboard preparing to evacuate the vessel, but the crew was able to restart the engine and keep the water under control until emergency help arrived, according to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centres of Northern Norway.

An emergency alert was sent by the Havsel after the leak occurred in Billefjorden and those aboard donned survival suits in anticipating of an evacuation that proved unnecessary.

“On the Havsel they have gained control of the leak and have started the main engine so that the boat can go under its own power,” Alf Hågensen, a rescue center official, told Svalbardposten at mid-morning Friday.

The Governor of Svalbard deployed its Polarsyssel service vessel and both of its rescue helicopters, while the Norwegian Coast Guard sent its Nordkapp ship to the scene. The Polarsyssel escorted the Havsel back to Longyearbeyn.

The Havsel was featured in the documentary and TV series “Ishavsblod,” which screen to widespread critical acclaim at the 2017 Tromsø International Film Festival. Captain Bjørne Kvernmo told iTromsø at the time the film ended up significantly increasing demand for seal meat his vessel once hunted for before laws and regulations brought the activity to a halt in Norway.