Around the poles sailing team missing in waters off Antarctica
A Russian-ukrainian crew that set sail in September on a historic expedition around the South and North Poles went missing in the Antarctic on Friday after encountering gale-force winds.
A spokeswoman for the eight-person crew on board the 29-metre yacht, Scorpius, said the team made its last radio contact on Monday night as it prepared for another treacherous leg of its journey in the South Shetlands.
The mission website’s last entry said the Scorpius met wind gusts that whipped up breaking waves on its way to Deception Island, a location popular with brave adventurers for its restless volcano.
It had just visited the Ukrainian-run Akademik Vernadsky research base and was heading next for the Russian-run Bellingshausen station.
“Gale-force winds blowing all day,” the crew wrote on the blog. “To try to enter the bay, which is crammed with underwater rocks and banks, with the winds blowing like this is very dangerous.”
Spokeswoman Anna Subbotina said the captain told her on Monday that Scorpius had sailed about 50 kilometres into the open sea from the Ukrainian station because so much ice had covered the surrounding bays.
She added that the captain had previously promised to make contact every couple of days because that part of the Antarctic has particularly dark nights at this time of the season and the area became quickly covered with ice.
“The captain said he was particularly afraid of hitting an iceberg,” Subbotina said.
“I know that this is a very strong crew that refuses to press the SOS button unless they really are ready to give up. I just hope that this is why we have not heard from them.”
The Scorpius — a sleek white steel yacht built in 1991 in The Netherlands — left on its 130,000 kilometre voyage hoping to set a number of sailing records and restoring Russia’s pride on the seas.
The team comprised four Russians and four Ukranians on this stage of the journey.