Grave fears are now held for the crew of three – Norwegians and possibly one British sailor - on expedition yacht Berserk, skippered by Norwegian professional sailor Jarle Andhoey, who has been skippering the 14metre 25 ton steel yacht for many years.
New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said it picked up a signal from a distress beacon on the Norwegian-registered yacht about 17 nautical miles north of Scott Base at 5pm local time on the 22nd February.
However, the EPIRB has since ceased to operate, and there is no explanation currently as to why this has occurred.
The vessel, which has been sailing the world offering the public voyages on a charter basis, had dropped two crew on the ice for them to attempt an overland expedition to the South Pole.
The conditions in the area are very rough, with winds to 75 knots and six to eight-metre swells. HMNZS Wellington was asked to head south to Berserk's last position. It reached the position at around 3.00am, but could find no trace of the yacht.
RCCNZ spokesman Ross Henderson said they were liaising with bases in Antarctic about sending an aircraft to join the search when the weather eased, and Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin has also been employed in the search.
Mr Henderson said they were also looking at what other ships were in the area and which could join the search when the weather improved.
One of the crew on board is believed to be British, but it is not known if he were one of those who is now on the mainland of Antarctica.