At 0957 Hrs. (NZT) Sea Shepherd helicopter pilot Chris Aultman spotted an Avon 8-person lifeboat in the sea at the position of 76 Degrees 40 Minutes and 43.2 Seconds South, and 166 Degrees 01 Minutes and 50.7 seconds East.
The position was only two miles from the Steve Irwin. The lifeboat is being recovered, and the description of the life raft matches the characteristics of one on the Berserk. New Zealand Search and Rescue has been notified.
The liferaft was unoccupied, half filled with water, encrusted with ice and the canopy had been clearly torn half off by strong winds. The condition of the seas at the time of the recovery were ideal - glass smooth waters, no swells, clear skies, and excellent visibility.
The position in which the raft was discovered is 45 miles North of the position where the distress signal was issued and is consistent with the drift and wind.
The Sea Shepherd crew has been conducting the search on a very disciplined grid for over 24 hours. The crew is confident that if the yacht Berserk were still afloat it would not have drifted as far north as the liferaft, and would have been discovered. All indications are that the Berserk has sunk and that it sank very quickly. The conditions at the time were extremely high winds, extremely low temperatures, very heavy seas, and numerous and very dangerous growlers.
Captain Paul Watson regrets to say that the three missing sailors are most likely lost at sea and the recovery of their bodies is very unlikely. The shorelines have been swept in search of survivors.
"We will continue searching, but the boat and debris would not have drifted further North than this raft, and we have done a very extensive and meticulous search of the area between the positions where the distress signal was issued and the raft was found. In my opinion, the conditions at the time of the distress call presented some very serious threats to such a small vessel. Considering that the distress signal was automatically sent and the lifeboat appears to have been released after the vessel was submerged, my opinion, and I hope I am wrong, is that the Berserk sank rapidly at the point where the distress signal was first detected in a depth of about 500 meters and a distance some six miles off shore at the position of 77 Degrees and 25 Minutes South and 166 Degrees and03 minutes East. Considering the extreme conditions it is unlikely, but not impossible that any of the crew were able to leave the vessel before it was lost. Unfortunately we have seen no evidence of survivors."