26 February 2011 - 7:00AM
A vast area of the Ross Sea near Antarctica has been searched as part of an international effort to locate the missing Norwegian vessel Berserk.
Three ships and helicopter have covered more than 4000 square kilometres in and around McMurdo Sound in the search, coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), and the Steve Irwin will continue to look for signs of the yacht and its three-person crew this morning.
An unoccupied and damaged liferaft found in the Southern Ocean at 9am (NZDT) yesterday was confirmed as belonging to the missing yacht and debris from the liferaft has been found floating up to 36 kilometres from where it was found.
The liferaft has a torn canopy and is missing its first aid kit and survival knife. However, there is no sign that the liferaft has ever been occupied. Evidence also indicates it has floated free from the vessel and not been released manually.
Checks by the RCCNZ following advice from the Berserk’s skipper, who is on the ice with another crew member as part of an expedition to the South Pole, have confirmed that liferaft is from the Berserk.
A sea boat and helicopter from the Steve Irwin continued to search the area until nightfall yesterday, with refuelling assistance from McMurdo Station for the helicopter search. No further trace of the missing vessel or the men has been found.
The Steve Irwin will search the area surrounding Franklin Island at the head of McMurdo Sound this morning as soon as day breaks around 8am (NZDT).
Water temperature in the area is near-freezing, with ice forming, putting survival times at mere minutes.
The rescue mission was launched after RCCNZ picked up a signal from a distress beacon registered to the Berserk about 5pm on Tuesday 22 February (NZDT). The yacht’s position at that time was 18 nautical miles (33km) north of Scott Base, in the Ross Sea. There has been no communication from the vessel.
The Berserkis a 48ft (14m) steel hulled sailboat. Four of the all male crew, including the skipper, are from Norway, and a fifth, who is among the missing, is from the United Kingdom. The two members of the group on the ice are safe and well but are still at least 1-2 days away from McMurdo base.
A further update will be provided once more information becomes available.
Norwegian press contact: JRCC Bodoe +47 75 55 93 40
For further information contact:
Maritime New Zealand Media Line
Phone 04 499 7318