The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) has released a statement regarding the Berserk, a Norwegian yacht that went missing in the Antarctic last week. While calling the incident “tragic,” the statement reiterates that the ship was not part of the organization, and was operating without regard to important safety guidelines.
The IAATO is a member-based organization that is focused on delivering safe and environmentally responsible options for travel to Antarctica. The association is made up of tour operators and travel companies who work together to ensure that sailing through the Southern Ocean is free from danger and available to all. Members are required to obtain all the necessary sailing permits from national authorities before they set out on their voyage, as well as provide an itinerary that offers details on what course they will be following as they travel throughout the region. The crew of the Berserk, did none of those things before setting out on their ill fated journey.
On Tuesday, February 22, the Berserk was sailing 18 nautical miles off the coast of Antarctica when it activated its emergency locator beacon. Massive storms were hitting the area at the time, and the high winds and rough waters prevented rescue operations from commencing for more than 24 hours. By the time search and rescue teams hit the area, the beacon was no longer transmitting and the yacht could not be reached by radio. It was believed that the ship had five passenger on board, but two of them were later found, alive and well, on the Antarctic continent, where they were embarking on a journey to the South Pole. The story took an ominous turn later in the week when an abandoned life raft was discovered adrift in the ocean, with no sign of passengers. Later, it was discovered that the Berserk was sailing without permits and without alerting any kind of national authority of their planned course.
Sailing in the Southern Ocean is a dangerous proposition, even in the best of times. The storms are powerful and massive icebergs lurk just beneath the surface, waiting to punch a hole through the hulls of passing ships. Because of these dangers, the IAATO released a set of guidelines for independent sailors on private ships passing through Antarctic waters. Sadly, had the crew of the Berserk heeded those guidelines, there is a better chance that they would be alive today.
To read the full statement from the IAATO, click here.
[Photo credit: IAATO]