updated 2/8/2007 3:29:11 PM ET 2007-02-08T20:29:11

Diesel fuel that leaked from a Norwegian cruise ship that ran aground in the Antarctic last week has caused no damage to the fragile environment, the Norwegian Polar Institute said Wednesday.

The 404-foot M/S Nordkapp ran aground and damaged its hull near Deception Island, which is part of the Antarctic archipelago's South Shetland Islands on Feb. 1. It pulled off the rocks under its own power, but the 294 passengers were transferred to a sister ship.

According to the institute, which is in charge of Norwegian environmental regulations in the Antarctic, some 130-200 gallons)of light diesel spilled into the ocean when the Nordkapp's crew tried to transfer the fuel from a damaged tank to one that was intact.

In a news release, the institute said researchers and crews of other cruise ships helped monitor the area and gather samples, which show no damage.

"It is very good that the grounding does not appear to have had any impact on that highly vulnerable environment," said Birgit Njaastad, of the institute's environmental section. Light diesel usually breaks up easily in water, the researchers said.

The Nordkapp had been anchored at a Chilean scientific station in Maxwell Bay, off King George's Island, where British divers temporarily repaired damage to its hull.

In a separate statement, Norwegian Coastal Voyage, which operates the ship, said the Nordkapp would depart Wednesday with an escort ship to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for permanent repairs and a maritime hearing on the accident.

The passengers from Nordkapp were transferred to its sister ship, M/S Nordnorge, and brought to Ushuaia, Argentina late last week.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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