Norwegian’s Sailboat Missing Off Antarctica … Again
It was a rather uneventful summer in Antarctica, relatively warm and wet along the coast, though much of the Peninsula remained blocked by thick pack ice due to lack of winds. The scientific highlight may have been the Russians’ successful drilling to Lake Vostok, 2.2 miles below the ice. Thankfully, there were no reports of ships run aground.
I spent January there, filming a big, new 3D movie about “change” in Antarctica, sailing down on the 74-foot Pelagic Australis. But all of that seeming uneventfulness has gone out the window with an apparent suicide-by-sailboat misadventure that is being closely monitored by Navies around the Southern Ocean.
Norwegian Jarle Andhoey, 34, self-proclaimed Viking and scofflaw of international treaties and sailing safety, and his 52-foot yacht, Nilaya, are thought to have gone missing while sailing from Antarctica toward Cape Horn. Last public contact with the Nilaya—which is not carrying an EPIRB, so it cannot be tracked by satellite even when in trouble—was a phone call from one of the crew members to his wife about five days ago. He reportedly told her the sail was broken, the boat was adrift, and that they were out of diesel and food. He had no idea of the boat’s position. Last Wednesday, March 14, Andhoey’s Oslo-based lawyer confirmed the boat was in trouble — broken mast? — and was headed back to Antarctica, hoping to land at one of the Argentina bases along the Peninsula.
If Andhoey’s name rings a bell, it’s because he was in the news exactly one year ago when his yacht the Berserk sank with three crew members aboard off the coast of Antarctica…while he and an 18-year-old boy were attempting an illegal run toward the South Pole aboard ATVs. On top of the loss of life, that misadventure got him arrested back in Norway and fined $5,000 by the Norwegian Polar Institute for traveling without permits or insurance.
This past January Andhoey headed back to the Ross Sea aboard a new yacht, claiming he was searching for signs of his lost boat. He insisted last year’s efforts by New Zealand, the U.S., and even the Sea Shepherd—which sent its helicopter out to scour the wild seas and ultimately spied its empty life raft—had failed to mount “a proper search.”
In and out of trouble for a decade, Andhoey has been a branded a madman in his home country by many people. He has even most likely renamed his new boat Berserk IV. On his website he compares himself to Roald Amundsen and has been known to wear a helmet with Viking horns.
“”It’s pathetic, really, and one has to have genuine sympathy for the families of the three lost souls that his quest for fame condemned to death.”"
Others have been far more critical than simply calling Andhoey a nutjob. New Zealand multimillionaire economist and Antarctic sailor Gareth Morgan has told the press he hopes whatever the boat is called, it sinks, describing Andhoey as a “bottom feeder, a taker of the worst kind.” “He appears to not give a toss about the amount of hurt he imparts on those who get in the way of his quest for his ‘Wild Vikings’ brand to attract sponsors and book sales,” Morgan told the New Zealand Herald. “It’s pathetic, really, and one has to have genuine sympathy for the families of the three lost souls that his quest for fame condemned to death.” Charlene Banks, sister of one of Andhoey’s crewmen who went down with the Berserk a year ago, calls him “diabolical.” “It’s all about publicity,” she told Radio New Zealand. “He’s definitely not well-prepared at all; he leaves everything to the last minute. He hasn’t got any of authorities’ approval. He believes he’s above the law.”
New Zealand authorities had been on the lookout for the Nilaya since January, when Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs alerted them that Andhoey was apparently going to attempt a return to Antarctica, again without permits or insurance. The boat was spotted by the custom’s plane in international waters off New Zealand. It apparently managed to stop in New Zealand long enough to pick up crew, though it’s not known exactly how many people are sailing aboard the Nilaya. It’s thought that now-19-year-old Samuel Massie, who was with Andhoey when they tried to reach the South Pole by ATV last year, is onboard, as is a Kiwi Maori political activist Busby Noble, who has variably reported that he was below decks repairing the anchor when the boat sailed away with him on it…or that he joined the misadventure to help give a proper blessing to the men who’d been lost at sea, one of whom was a friend.
As more private yachts sail to Antarctica each year, the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) has been rigorous about trying to keep operators informed on the dos and don’ts of sailing to the only place on the planet governed by international treaty. The first warning given in its manual for yachties is: All Antarctica-bound yacht expeditions must be authorized by the operator’s own country or the vessel’s flag state. In Antarctica, the Nilaya apparently sailed within two miles of the big U.S. base at McMurdo and was spotted by a base employee; New Zealand’s Scott Base was instructed not to receive the boat or crew if it showed up. They touched the ice at some point because Noble reported via sat phone to have planted the Maori flag.
When it had no luck finding any sign of the Berserk, the Nilaya apparently headed from the Ross Sea toward Cape Horn, which this time of year means navigating a 200-mile-wide band of ice. The skipper’s thinking was that if he was able to reach Argentinaian-soil—rather than going back to New Zealand, where authorities at the very least want to present him with a $9,000 bill for searching for him—he wouldn’t face arrest or prosecution. Today he bigger question remains, where is Andhoey? And what was he thinking?