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lost at sea

Another story with quite likely a bad ending…

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand said a raft spotted by helicopter was from the "Berserk" – 14m sailboat which had recently dropped two explorers on Antarctica on an expedition to reach the South Pole. "With no sign of a vessel we are extremely worried," a spokesman said.

The search is still underway for the steel-hulled boat which had a crew of five people – believed to be four Norwegians and one Briton – before it left the two explorers, including the skipper, in Antarctica. But the spokesman said hopes of finding the three alive were dimming, particularly as water temperatures were about minus 12C and survival time for anyone who fell overboard would be "mere minutes".

"Finding the life raft was an encouraging sign," the spokesman said. "But I guess it’s fair to say that the longer it goes without any further sighting and given those extremely inhospitable conditions, the greater our concerns are."

Three ships and a helicopter have been looking for the Berserk and its three crew members since the yacht issued a distress beacon alert on February 22. The four-to-six person lifeboat was located some 72km north of the boat’s last recorded position early on Friday by a helicopter from the anti-whaling vessel the Steve Irwin.

A sea boat from the Steve Irwin later recovered the life raft, which had a torn canopy and was missing its first aid kit and survival knife. There was no signs that the life raft had ever been occupied, and it appeared it had floated free of the vessel and not been released manually, officials said. But Steve Irwin captain Paul Watson said the Berserk had most likely sunk. Join the discussion.