The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin discovered a life raft this morning at 0700 hours (NZT) at the position of 76 Degrees 59 Minutes South and 167 Degrees 26 Minutes East. Quartermaster Cassandra Smith of Sunshine Coast, Queensland, just barely spotted the black life raft because of its dark coloring on a very dark sea.
The life raft was empty of people and supplies, and was half full of water. "It looked like it has taken a terrible beating," said Captain Paul Watson.
There was no identifying name or number on the life raft. Sea Shepherd reported the finding to New Zealand Search and Rescue. Apparently the life raft matches the description of the life rafts used on the New Zealand Naval vessel Wellington. The Wellington reported losing three life rafts overboard in the storm. The crew of the Steve Irwin recovered the life raft, which was a difficult task because the ship's hydraulic crane and the decks were covered in thick ice.
Extreme weather conditions overnight have now abated and at 0800 hours, Sea Shepherd pilot American Chris Aultman, took off from the deck of the Steve Irwin to begin an aerial search of the area.
"We are hopeful that the crew may still be with the yacht or were able to make it to shore. We will do a complete search of the area in accordance to instructions provided by New Zealand Search and Rescue," said Captain Watson.
It is now established that two of the five man Norwegian expeditionary team are alive, while the three presumably onboard the Berserk yacht remain missing. The two man exploration party was discovered about 100 miles inland bound for Ross Island. They said they were to meet the remaining crew of the Berserk at Shackleton's Hut on Ross Island. The two Norwegians have indicated that they do not need assistance; they are now bound for McMurdo Station.
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin and the Nancy Burnet helicopter have completed a careful aerial and sea search of the McMurdo Sound, but they've been unable to find a trace of the Norwegian yacht Berserk. Sea Shepherd will continue moving northward in the direction of the wind and currents in their continued search for the missing yacht and crew. Search conditions are excellent in terms of visibility and sea conditions, with little wind.