Search Continues for Niña and Crew
July 26, 2013 – Tasman Sea
Ricky and Robin Wright of Lousiana, the parents of Danielle Wright, 19, who has been missing for nearly two months after setting sail from Opua, New Zealand, for Newcastle, Australia, with six others aboard the 70-ft staysail schooner Niña, haven't given up hope that their daughter and the others can be still be found alive. They and others have hired Equusearch, a Texas firm, to try to figure out where the schooner and/or her survivors might be now.
In addition, family and friends of the Niña crew are pressing for the U.S. government to have the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), a part of the Defense Department that supposedly has the capability of working out exactly where Niña's satphone calls were made from, to try to help find the survivors. The NGA was instrumental in locating Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, the NGA doesn't have the best record on the water. It was the NGA that provided the erroneous digital maps that contributed to the nearly new 224-ft U.S. Navy vessel Guardian going up on Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, on January 17 of this year. The NGA charts showed the reef to be seven miles from its actual position. The expensive ship had to be cut up into three pieces and destroyed.
Friends of the Niña base their continued hopes on the possibility that New Zealand SAR resources may have been searching the wrong area in what has been their biggest search ever. Two GPS positions from Niña's Iridium phone were 700 miles apart, even though the reports were sent within just seven minutes of each other. Clearly one or both of the positions was in error. Friends of the Niña crew believe the Kiwis may have focused their search on the wrong GPS coordinate, and have thus been looking close to 700 miles from where they should have focused their search.
Realistically, there is reason to doubt that the Niña crew may still be alive. Nothing has been heard from their VHF, SSB, Iridium or EPIRB in nearly two months. And no matter which of their last GPS positions was correct, they were in cold and often rough waters.
But based on history, there is a chance they are still alive. In 2006, three fishermen from San Blas, Mexico, drifted 5,000 miles in nine months before their 29-ft disabled panga was spotted by a fishing boat near the Marshall Islands. One of the crew had died. In 1942, Poon Lim, a Chinese seaman, was on a merchant ship torpedoed by the Nazis off South Africa. He survived for 133 days in remarkably good shape, having lost not much weight at all. In 1973, Brits Maurice and Marilyn Bailey had their sailboat holed by a whale while on their way from Panama to New Zealand. They survived in their liferaft for 117 days before being rescued in poor health by a Korean fishing vessel. And sailor Steve Callahan drifted almost all the way across the Atlantic in his liferaft after a whale holed his boat.
- latitude / richard
Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude