American Schooner Goes Missing in South Pacific

The "Nina". Photo: Woodeboat Forum
The “Nina”. Photo: Woodeboat Forum

Concerns are mounting over the fate of a historic American schooner and her crew after the vessel went missing June 4 while sailing from New Zeeland to Australia.

The 70-foot Nina, built in 1928, left Opua, New Zealand on May 29 and has not been heard from since June 4, when the vessel was about 370 nautical miles west-north-west of Cape Reinga. There are seven people on board, including six Americans (three men aged 17, 28 and 58, and three women aged 18, 60 and 73) and a British man aged 35.

The vessel is equipped with satellite phone, a spot device which allows regular tracking signals to be sent manually, and an emergency beacon, but still the vessel seems to have vanished without a trace.

The last contact with the crew was made with the vessel on June 4th when, according to the AP, a meteorologist in New Zealand took a call from the vessel: “The weather’s turned nasty, how do we get away from it?”.

The meteorologist advised them to ride out the storm for another day, the AP report says. After that, communication was lost.

Growing worried, family and friends alerted authorities on June 14 and a search was launched by Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand.

According to RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator, Kevin Banaghan, a RNZAF P3 Orion airplane has completed two extensive searches covering over 500,000 square miles.

On 25 June, a search area of 160,000 square nautical miles was covered focussing on the immediate north-north-east of New Zealand, based on the vessel being disabled and drifting. Later on June 26, a search was completed of 324,000 square nautical miles between northern New Zealand and the Australian coast, based on the vessel suffering damage but continuing to make progress towards Australia. An extensive shoreline search was then conducted June 28 without success, RCCNZ says.

“Unfortunately, no sign of the vessel has been found,” Mr Banaghan said. “Our records show that conditions at the last known position for the vessel, on 4 June, were very rough, with winds of 80kmh, gusting to 110kmh, and swells of up to 8m. We do hold grave concerns for the Nina and her crew but remain hopeful of a positive outcome.”

RCCNZ says it is liaising with the Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia), and will continue to review search options.