The search for a Norwegian ship and her three missing crew members has been called off by rescue authorities in New Zealand after a week-long hunt for survivors. Tom Gisle Bellika, 36, and Robert Skaanes, 34 – both from Norway – are now assumed dead along with South African Leonard Banks, 32. Their yacht, Beserk, went missing a week ago in the Southern Ocean, 33km north of Scott Base in the Ross Sea.
“Sadly, given the absence of any further sign of the vessel or the crew, combined with the recent extreme weather conditions and near-freezing temperatures currently experienced in the Ross Sea, it has gone beyond the point where we could reasonably expect anyone to be found alive,” said Nigel Clifford, General Manager of Maritime New Zealand Safety Services.
“Therefore, after carefully reviewing all of the information gathered over the last week, and in the absence of any further developments, the Director of Maritime New Zealand has accepted the recommendation to formally suspend the search,” he continued. “This difficult decision has not been made lightly, and we pass on our deepest sympathies to the families of the three men.”
The recovery effort, involving three rescue vessels, a helicopter and several smaller boats, spent more than 140 hours scouring an area of approximately 26,000km². It is estimated, however, that survival times in the freezing waters would be less that 30 minutes without an immersion suit.
The ship’s captain, Jarle Andhoy, was found alive on the ice along with 18 year-old sailor Samuel Massie. Andhoy has been widely criticised for undertaking the ill-fated mission, with New Zealand newspaper The Sunday Star Times, calling it a “foolhardy voyage to Antarctica by a group of self-proclaimed Vikings.”
According to The Foreigner, the crew were also warned of approaching harsh weather conditions by personnel from HMNZS Wellington – one of the ships sent to search for survivors – the day before Beserk sent out its final distress signal.