Search continues – grave concerns for missing sailors

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2011 01:22 PM
Search continues – grave concerns for missing sailors
Search efforts for the missing Norwegian yacht Berserk will continue as long as vessels can remain in the area, but there are grave concerns for the missing vessel and crew.
The search effort, coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), is now in its fifth day since the distress beacon from Berserk was detected, during the worst blizzard to date of the Southern summer and has covered up to 10,000 square kilometres in McMurdo Sound and the Ross Sea.
A sea boat and helicopter from Steve Irwin continued to search the area surrounding Franklin Island in the entrance to McMurdo Sound this morning, finding no further trace of the vessel or its crew.
Steve Irwin has stowed its helicopter after 18 hours of searching and eight refueling stops at McMurdo Station. The ship has begun its voyage northward to Hobart, an eight day journey, and will continue searching for Berserk as it continues along the Antarctic coastline north of the last known position of the missing yacht. Weather conditions and visibility are still good for searching.
Additionally, Professor Kromov, formerly part of the search, will pass through the search area again in the next few days on its return journey, and will continue to look for signs of Berserk.
Water temperature in the area is near-freezing, with ice forming, putting survival times at mere minutes.
Three ships and a helicopter have been involved in the search since RCCNZ received a signal from a distress beacon registered to Berserk about 5pm on Tuesday 22 February (NZDT). The yacht’s position at that time was 26 nautical miles (48km) north of Scott Base, in the Ross Sea.
Yesterday an unoccupied and damaged liferaft was found by Steve Irwin at 9am (NZDT) and was subsequently confirmed as belonging to the missing yacht. The liferaft had a torn canopy and was missing its first aid kit and survival knife. However, there is no sign that the liferaft has ever been occupied. Evidence indicates it has floated free from the vessel and not been released manually. Flotsam that may be from the liferaft has been found floating up to 36 kilometres from where the liferaft was found.
RCCNZ has been in constant contact with Norwegian rescue authorities and the families of the five explorers, who have expressed their extreme gratitude for the efforts and vigilance from the crew and pilot aboard Steve Irwin and the other vessels involved in the search.
Berserk is 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 and making good progress towards McMurdo Station. They are expecting to reach the station today.

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