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February 27, 2011

Hope Fades for Norwegian Adventurers Lost in Antarctic

New Zealand officials say they have no hope of finding three Norwegian adventurers whose yacht has gone missing in a fierce Antarctic storm.

Lou Sanson, who directs New Zealand's operations in Antarctica, told VOA that efforts to find the men will likely be called off Tuesday morning.

Listen to Victor Beattie's inteview with Lou Sanson

The yacht, called The Berserk, had arrived on its mission in Antarctica on February 11, and had left two Norwegian explorers near the New Zealand and U.S. bases to begin a quad bike journey to the South Pole.

Sanson said the two men on motorbikes reported getting to within 200 miles of the pole before encountering "extreme" weather conditions. He said they turned back to help with the search and rescue operation before being returned to New Zealand with assistance from the United States. They are scheduled to fly home to Norway Tuesday.

After five days of searching, all that was found was an ice-covered lifeboat.

Sanson said it is very late in the season for an Antarctic expedition, with temperatures currently around minus-20 Celsius "and dropping by the week."  He noted that the United States is already shutting down most of its Antarctic operations for the winter.

Sanson also questioned whether the adventurers had planned properly for the expedition or fully reported their plans to the Norwegian government. He said an international treaty requires that organizers of all such expeditions satisfy their governments that they have properly planned for all contingencies.

Sanson pointed out that New Zealand and the United States incurred substantial expenses in the search operation. He said the Sea Shepherd conservation organization, which has vessels in the region to harass Japanese whaling vessels, also took part in the search.