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Missing Norwegian Antarctic expedition Ground Party Located

24 FEBRUARY 2011 TIME: 2.00PM

Missing ground party located

Two men missing as part of a Norwegian Antarctic expedition have been found alive and well, and have provided rescuers with new information that may help locate their three crew members missing since Tuesday 22 February (NZDT).

A rescue mission was launched after the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) picked up a signal from a distress beacon registered to the yacht Berserk about 5pm on Tuesday 22 February. The yacht’s position at that time was 18 nautical miles (33km) north of Scott Base, in the Ross Sea.

The Berserk is a 48ft (14m) steel hulled sailboat. It is understood there are three people on board, and that the vessel had dropped two explorers onto Antarctica for the purpose of attempting to reach the South Pole. Four of the all male crew are understood to be from Norway, and a fifth from the United Kingdom. There has been no communication from the vessel, and its distress beacon is no longer transmitting.

However, at about 1pm today (NZDT), contact was made via satellite phone with the two men from the ground party, who gave their position as about 100 miles from Scott Base. Both are alive and well. They also provided rescuers with information about the possible location of their crewmates and the missing vessel, which is still be checked by RCCNZ.

A further update will be provided once more information becomes available.

Background

RCCNZ tasked the New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Wellington to assist in the search for the Berserk on Tuesday 22 February (NZDT). After completing a search early yesterday (23 February), the vessel turned back due to extremely difficult weather in the region, including winds up to 150kph. Yesterday, RCCNZ tasked the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin and the Heritage Expedition vessel Professor Kromov to join in the search.

The Steve Irwin arrived in the area around 7.00am today (NZDT), and has been using its helicopter, a Hughes 500, to carry out a search focusing on a 30-55 mile area of shoreline around the sailboat’s last known position. The vessel is also searching on the water for any trace of the men and their missing vessel.

The helicopter had previously found no trace of the vessel or its crew, though the Steve Irwin did spot a liferaft about 7.30am today reportedly lost from the HMNZS Wellington.

About 4000 square kilometres have so far been covered by the search, which has been hampered by extreme weather conditions in the last 48 hours, and a lack of firm information about the Berserk’s intentions.

MORE
RCCNZ has been in contact with Scott Base, but no other aircraft are available for searching at this stage.

Meanwhile, the Professor Kromov is expected in the area about 4-5pm (NZDT), depending on the sea and weather conditions.

Weather in the area is currently good for searching, with relatively calm seas, winds of 25 knots (45kph), and good visibility.

RCCNZ is in contact with the Norwegian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (Hovedredningssentralen), which is working with the missing crew’s families.

It is the southern-most search conducted by RCCNZ within New Zealand’s search and rescue region.

ENDS


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