By Svetlana Kalmykova
A crew of eight Russian and Ukrainian adventurers aboard the Scorpius yacht have gone missing off the Antarctic coast as they set sail on an ambitious expedition around the North and South Poles. There has been no radio contact with the expedition, which never sent a SOS distress signal. The search for the team will kick off today at midnight if it doesn’t make any contact by then.
The expedition sailed across the Sea of Ross in the West Antarctica and reached the Ukraine-run Akademik Vernadsky research base on the Galindes Island. On the night of April 3, expedition leader Sergei Nizovtsev sent the last report via e-mail, saying that the yacht had made it to the island but had been forced to get anchored in the island’s northern cove to avoid dense ice off its southern shore. The Akademik Vernadsky research team provided the Scorpius with technical assistance. At 6 a.m. the following day, the expedition was to set off for the Russian Bellingshausen polar base through the Lemaire Channel, which turned out to be cut off by the ice. The captain made the decision to head into the open sea where the yacht met 30-knots-strong gale winds. There has been no news about the expedition’s whereabouts ever since, its spokesperson Anna Subbotina told The Voice of Russia.
“They only had to make it to our Bellingshausen research base to complete the circle around the Antarctic. The distance between the two stations is not that big, just some 80 miles. I was alarmed to learn they were cut off from the Russian polar station, once because of high winds and then because the sea was freezing so fast that dense ice was constantly blocking their way. So I got anxious and sounded the alarm. I tried to call them up some hours ago but no one answered. We’d all know if they sent a SOS signal, of course.”
One can only imagine what the crew is going through right now. Most probably, the yacht got trapped in the ice somewhere in the Akademik Vernadsky-Bellingshausen-Palmer triangle, Anna Subbotina suggested.
The Scorpius set sail from the Russian city of Sochi in September 2011 to beat several world records. The adventurers are to sail back home to Russia in early February 2014.