Berserk tragedy: Interview with Jarle Andhøy

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Posted: Mar 23, 2011 04:47 am EDT -Original article here

(By Jon Amtrup) Jarle Andhøy, the expedition leader for the Berserk that most likely was sunk in the Ross Sea in February, has returned to Norway. Three of his crew are lost and presumed dead, and Andhøy is planning to return to the area for a flower ceremony. ExWeb has interviewed him about the tragic events.

Andhøy has been subject for massive criticisms for his sailing trip to one of the most remote and harsh seas in the world. He was going to celebrate the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen by making an ATV trip to the South Pole point, but he will not answer if he actually reached the South Pole. He hasn’t commented on ExWeb question about when and where his documentary will be aired.

ExWeb:What do you think happen to the Berserk?

Andhøy: I don’t know. I still collect information and facts around the accident.

ExWeb:You had two daily calls with the crew when you where heading for the South Pole. What did you discuss in the last call?

Andhøy: We were on our way to the coast when I received last sms from them “All good. Boat shipshape and we are now leaving horseshoe Bay… contact us when you can”

ExWeb:How did you research the area and who did you speak to before you left for the Ross Sea?

Andhøy: I spoke to various old school whalers from Vestfold. Mostly Lars Henriksen a Norwegian whaling pilot from Sandefjord. I also had some email correspondence with some cruise ships in the area. The Bible in the area is certainly The English admiralty sailing directions 9 th edition.

ExWeb:Why do you thing people like Skip Novak and Don McIntyre don’t recommend ordinary sailing vessels to enter the Ross Sea?

Andhøy: “Berserk” is not a ordinary sailing vessel, but a expedition vessel And I share some of their statements about the weather and area, but stay to the facts about this expedition. I never spoke with either one of them.
I know that Don was copied on some email correspondence which I had with captain Mike on the Orion. Surprising for me that these respectable guys want to get a few moments of fame in this tragedy. Especially since the lost seamen cannot defend themselves from the project criticism based on their own guesses about it.

ExWeb: How did you come to the conclusion that sailing and leaving the crew and boat in the Ross Sea was a risk worth taking?

Andhøy: It was the best time of the season ice wise and I left the boat in the hands of a captain I trust and with good seamen on board. They knew the boat very well and had a good anchor area where they could hide from the wind and weather around Shackeltons hut. (Horse shoe Bay and Backdoor Bay). Life at sea is a risk. In the Ross Sea it’s bigger, but with good preparations, crew and today’s equipment and technology it is a lot easier than for the men who explored the area from James Ross days.

ExWeb: Can you list the sailing, preferably arctic, experience the three on board had?

Andhøy: The boat captain sailed the North West passage, Otto Sverdrup Islands, and Greenland. Asides he is a experienced charter captain doing deliveries summer and wintertime in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and North sea.
Leonard Banks grew up in a sailing boat with a experienced sailor father from South Africa. He is a skilled surfer and sailor who has been traveling and working as crew around for the last 7 years.
Robert is a professional diver, offshore rig worker and the kind of handyman you really want in a boat. He has been sailing with me on various trips and has been onboard the Berserk the last 12 months.

ExWeb: Did you reach the South Pole point- yes or no? And how do you define The End of the World that you keep speaking about?

Andhøy: You will get both answers by watching television. I can also inform you that getting to the South Pole in 2011 is not very hard compared to Amundsens days.

ExWeb: How did you assess the risk when two of the potential, and experienced expeditioners, withdrew from the trip due to safety concerns?

Andhøy: I dont know where you have that information from and suggest you do some  better research. On this expedition there has been 11 people involved on different levels – some were up to it some were not. A selection was done from my and Captain Bellikas side to collect the best men for the mission.

Editors note: The question related to Gjermund Frostad, a very experienced motorcyclist with Dakar and Dresden-Breslau on his resume, and Tore Sunde-Rasmussen, Mount Everest and 7 summits. Both withdrew from the expeditions according to media reports. Andhøy hasn’t answered this follow up question: I’m talking about Gjermund Frostad (42) and Tore Sunde-Rasmussen who through Norwegian newspapers has stated that they backed out due to safety concerns. Your comment?

ExWeb: How will you handle the upcoming police investigation for lacking SAR and not filing for a sailing permit?

Andhøy: I will face it and answer to all questions. Its some complicated international questions that will come up concerning the treaty. In addition I appreciate that Norwegian officials also will investigate the accident – – What really happened to the “Berserk”? The answer of that has more attention for me. Not whether they had the right papers or not.

ExWeb:Why didn’t you make sure to have the paperwork in place before you left?

Andhøy: We did various research and there are different formalities depending of the country where you process the paperwork and we where answered by more questions than answers.

ExWeb: You have been fined for missing SAR and “talking to a Polar Bear” on Svalbard, arrested and deported from Canada when you tried to sail the Northwest Passage, and are now facing a police investigation for the Antarctic expedition. How will these incidents affect your future?

Andhøy: Time will show.

ExWeb: What is your future plans?
Andhøy: I am sailing back to the Ross Sea to make a proper flower ceremony where my
crewmates are assumed lost.

ExWeb: Anything else?
Andhøy: I appreciate any critics based on facts. The ending of this expedition is nothing but a tragedy for me, the crew mates and the families involved with this project.
Our philosophy is being self-sufficient and managing life as old time seafarers. In order to survive and succeed in remote hostile areas being self-sufficient is the key. All members on board the Berserk was fully aware of the risk and did not want to bother nobody, but ourselves. But the self-sufficiency was breached when my shipmate chose to activate the EBIRB.

Maybe it would have been better to leave it back home as Don McIntyre suggest, but instead I support Captain Gisles decision as he chose to request help near one of the most trafficked areas in Antarctica and the continents SAR centre.

And I wonder what he would have said if we didn’t have the right security equipment onboard?? or has he told that already…

Me and all families of the Berserk crew wish to express our deepest thanks to Paul Watson and the crew on Steve Irwin, HMS Wellington and all parts that have been assisting the search to try to find the lost Berserkers.

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