A week-long search for a Norwegian yacht missing in Antarctic waters with three men aboard has been abandoned, New Zealand's Rescue Co-ordination Centre announced Monday.
An extensive air and sea search found no trace of the 14-metre Berserk, which disappeared in minus 12-degree Celsius waters on February 22 except for its damaged life raft.
The Berserk yacht was attempting to mark the centenary of Norwegian explorer Ronald Amundsen's South Pole expedition.
Meanwhile, two survivors of the mission were reported to have reached safety after a 20-hour drive across the ice on quad bikes to catch the last flight out of Antarctica of the southern hemisphere summer.
They aborted the expedition after hearing that the Berserk had disappeared. No more aircraft will be able to land to supply scientists working at research bases in Antarctica until the end of the year.
Antarctic New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson was quoted saying the whole expedition was beyond understanding: 'It just seems all the protocols and safety principles operating in Antarctica have been broken.'
Sanson said the two survivors, named as mission leader Jarle Andhoy, 34, and Samuel Massie Ulvolden, 18, were suffering from frostbite and exhaustion after driving for nearly 20 hours to reach New Zealand's Scott Base.
Sanson said the men were flying to Christchurch on a United States aircraft and would be met by Norwegian diplomats based in Australia. He said it was up to the Norwegian government to deal with them.
I don't think Norwegian authorities knew about it. The US government didn't know about it and the New Zealand government didn't know about it.
He said under New Zealand law anyone heading that far south needed a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He said the trip to the South Pole was not a wise decision.
”It was very unusual to be attempting a 1600km trip to the South Pole on motorbikes. It is minus 20 there. On the Polar Plateau it is minus 30. You get wind chill up to minus 70. These guys were 220km towards the pole and still had over 1200km to go.
HMNZS Wellington conducted a search in the Ross Sea in 180km/h winds and was damaged. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin also searched, using its helicopter and a boat.
They found a life raft from the missing yacht but it was damaged and empty. The storm which probably claimed the yacht was the worst for 20 years and may have caused a breakout of a huge slab of ice from the McMurdo ice shelf, Sanson said.
The missing men were named by Stuff as Robert Skaane, 34, Tom Gisle Bellika, 36, and Leonard Banks, 32 from South Africa.