28 Feb 2011

Search for missing Norwegian yacht abandoned

3:48 pm on 28 February 2011

The search for a missing Norwegian yacht near Antarctica has not officially ended, but there are no vessels or aircraft now looking for the boat.

The yacht, Berserk, with three people on board, was a support boat for two Norwegian adventurers hoping to drive quad bikes to the South Pole.

It has not been heard from since Tuesday, and rescue co-ordination centre spokesperson Ross Henderson says it appears those on board have perished. Some flotsam is all that's been found.

On Monday morning the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin was released from the search after helping out for five days, using its helicopter to scour the Antarctic coast and the Ross Sea.

Mr Henderson says a Russian vessel due to sail through the search area over the next few days will keep a lookout for any signs.

Last flight out just caught

Meanwhile, the two Norwegian adventurers caught the last flight out of Scott Base this summer after racing across the Antarctic ice on quad bikes.

The chief executive of Antarctica New Zealand, Lou Sanson, says the pair arrived at the base on Sunday morning suffering from frostbite and exhaustion after driving for nearly 20 hours.

They boarded a United States plane for Christchurch, where they were to be met by staff from the Norwegian embassy in Sydney.

Mr Sanson says he can't understand why anyone would try to drive quad bikes to the South Pole heading into winter.

He says the pair will now have to explain themselves to the Norwegian government.