Hopes are fading for three crew missing on yacht Berserk in Antarctica after searchers found the boat's only life raft damaged and covered in ice, but unoccupied.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand said a raft spotted by helicopter was from the Berserk - 14m sailboat which had recently dropped two explorers on Antarctica on an expedition to reach the South Pole.
The search is still underway for the steel-hulled boat which had a crew of five people - believed to be four Norwegians and one Briton - before it left the two explorers, including the skipper, in Antarctica, but water temperatures are about minus 12C and survival time for anyone who fell overboard would be minimal.
'Finding the life raft was an encouraging sign,' the spokesman told Australia's Herald Sun, 'but I guess it's fair to say that the longer it goes without any further sighting and given those extremely inhospitable conditions, the greater our concerns are.'
Three ships and a helicopter have been looking for the Berserk and its three crew members since the yacht issued a distress beacon alert on February 22.
The four-to-six person lifeboat was located some 72km north of the boat's last recorded position early on Friday by a helicopter from the anti-whaling vessel the Steve Irwin.
A sea boat from the Steve Irwin later recovered the life raft, which had a torn canopy and was missing its first aid kit and survival knife.
The ramifications of the loss of the yacht are that the two crew who set out to make an overland journey to the South Pole, and are on their way back to the shore, will have to be rescued by others.
Jarle Andhøy, Berserk’s captain, is aware of the situation with his missing yacht. 'He and 18-year-old Samuel Massie are expected to reach the Scott Base in a one or two days,' Geir Mortensen, press spokesperson for Joint Rescue Centre Northern Norway, said today.