Missing boat lacked authorization
February 28, 2011
A Norwegian boat that went missing in Antarctica last week with three persons on board had not received permission from relevant authorities to venture into the area, its skipper confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He rejected claims, however, that he and his crew were irresponsible.
Jarle Andhøy, the 33-year-old leader of the expedition to the South Pole, arrived back in New Zealand late Sunday along with 18-year-old Samuel Massie. They had gone ashore and were on their way to the South Pole in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) when they received news that three team members on board their vessel, named Berserk, had sent out an emergency signal.
The signal prompted a major search for the 47-foot boat last week. It was called off over the weekend, and the two Norwegians and one South African on board are presumed dead.
Leader on the defensive
Andhøy defended the expedition, claiming that “the nature and the sea are for everyone,” and rejecting criticism lodged in both New Zealand and Norway that the expedition he led was irresponsible. Officials and polar experts have suggested the Berserk was overloaded, that Andhøy and his crew violated applicable treaties regulating expeditions in the area, that they failed to secure permission to make the trip, and that it was hazardous to head for the South Pole in an ATV. The crew of the Berserk also reportedly ignored storm warnings.
Andhøy believes the boat should have been able to tolerate the rough conditions in the area. “I have been out with the (man who took over as) captain before in seas that were double so high,” Andhøy told NRK. “It’s improbable that the boat sunk. It’s surprising.”
He confirmed he neither had obtained permission to sail to Antarctica nor made any arrangements for a maritime rescue, both of which are required. He nonetheless dismissed criticism from local authorities and experts at the polar institutes of both Norway and New Zealand.
‘The sea gives and takes’
“The chorus can cackle so high they want, we have done our job 110 percent,” Andhøy claimed. “Nature is nature, the sea gives and the sea takes, and all the guys on board know that very well.”
The young Massie, meanwhile, told NRK he didn’t plan to head out to sea in the near future. “I will play with PlayStation and gather my thoughts first,” he said.
Jan-Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said he wanted to stress the “deeply tragic” nature of the situation, especially for the crew of the Berserk and for their families.
“But the reality is that this expedition didn’t have permission from Norwegian authorities,” Winther told NRK. Officials in New Zealand were urging authorities in Norway to pursue the matter.