Was he invited or did he stow away? Reports from different ends of the globe disagree about whether Busby Noble, 53, a 150 kilo Mauri activist who is sailing to Antarctica with Norwegian controversial adventurer Jarle Andhoey had left on the Nilaya with Andhoey's permission or not.
Nilaya headed for Antarctica
Andhoey claims he denied Noble permission to accompany him and he stowed away in the bow. Noble told political colleagues in New Zealand that he had been invited, and that he wanted to go to pay respects to a friend, one of the three killed on the last voyage while Andhoey and Samuel Massie were riding quad bikes to the Pole, which they never reached.
Andhoey left Auckland last month on a controversial mission to find the remains of the last yacht, the Berserk, thought to have sunk in McMurdo Sound on or about 22nd February last year.
The Nilaya has now, apparently illegally, passed the 60 degree line and has reached the Antarctic ice shelf, according to Noble.
Director Jan Gunnar Winther of the Norwegian Polar Insititute told media outlet Dagbladet it is highly unlikely that the new expedition has been given permission to cross the border. 'They have not received permission from Norway, New Zealand and Russia. We can not rule out that they have received permission from other countries, but we expect that the country had made itself known now,' he said. (Andhøy told the media that he has Russian permission, which the Norwegian Polar Institute has since disproved.)
That the yacht has reached the Antarctic was also confirmed by spokesman for Andhøys new expedition, Rune 'Supern' Olsgaard, a former crew member. Norwegian media outlet Dagbladet claims that the yacht is currently at Franklin Island, owned by Australia, and located at around 76 degrees south, having had a slow trip through lack of wind.
The transgressions of the crew appear to be multiple. 'Stowaway' Noble is reported to be travelling under an illegitimate Tino Rangatiratanga passport instead of his New Zealand one, to which he is entitled. Noble insists he was 'paying his way' on the voyage by undertaking mechanical repairs.
Reports to both New Zealand and Norway confirm that the yacht, a steel-hulled yacht purchased in New Zealand from previous owners Marlene and Doug Easton, has enjoyed excellent weather during the voyage south. The Eastons refused to confirm or deny whether the yacht was strengthened for ice-breaking conditions when asked by Sail-World.
Andhøy says he wants to find out if there is still remaining equipment from Berserk on the anchorages at Horseshoe Bay and Backdoor Bay. The equipment should have been put in depots shaped like cairns, he says, and if the equipment has been removed Andhøy believes that the crew must have been ordered to do so.
If the conditions are good enough that Andhøy and the crew can sail into the area where Berserk disappeared, the first priority is to look for these repositories. Although the ice has remained thick this year, one report from Antarctica is that a path has been cleared, and the Nilaya should be able to enter.
Apparently the plan is that they will start searching where the beacon was triggered. They have brough electronic equipment to search the ocean floor, says Olsgaard, and they also have satellite photos of the area, which were not used by the searching New Zealand authorities.
Both Andhøy and lawyer Nils Jorgen Vordahl have tried to get answers from New Zealand authorities if they have seen the equipment or remove it. 'We have not seen any equipment at Horseshoe Bay and Backdoor Bay,' wrote head of infrastructure and operations at Scott Base, Iain Miller, in an e-mail to Dagbladet.
In the meantime, New Zealand multi-millionaire Gareth Morgan, who has chartered a former Russian ice breaker Spirit of Enderby, to explore the Ross Sea, has caused outrage in Norway by saying he hopes Andhoey sinks in Antarctica and that he will not go to help him if he does.
Asked what response they would have if they saw Nilaya, Morgan replied: 'Let it sink. It's about collective responsibility. This cowboy has opted out.'
In an email to Norwegian media, passed on by Morgan's staff, the economist also said Andhoey's real mission was to attract as much press as he possibly could and sell books and sponsorships as a result.
'Clearly Andhoey is out to test the resolve of the international agreements that protect Antarctica from the random risks of errant behaviour like his,' Morgan said in a blog.