Adventure tour operator Explore has sent out staff to support its 14 passengers who were on board the stricken Explorer which sunk after hitting ice in the Bransfield Strait off King George Island last week.

The company said the holidaymakers, who were among 24 Britons on board the expedition ship, had to be rescued before the ship sunk in Antarctic waters on Friday evening.

All of Explore’s passengers’ requirements such as flights, accommodation and new clothing are being provided for and senior-level Explore and counselling staff have flown out to support the group.

Explore managing director Ashley Toft said: “Our major concern at this point is, of course, with our customers. Our main priority of course, is to ensure their journey home is made as smoothly as possible.”

Explore associate director Derek Moore said: “When the accident occurred we were naturally concerned about the welfare and safety of our clients.

“We were very pleased with the fact that when this accident occurred the safety procedures worked and there was no loss of life or serious injury.”

He said that the sinking of the cruise ship will have very little impact on polar cruises, adding. “This sort of accident is very rare and before this the Explorer had been cruising for 30 years without incident. The majority of our passengers have had very few problems.”