We Are Looking For Ways To Continue: Catamaran Of RGS’s Circumnavigation Lost In Pacific Ocean

Фото участников экспедиции
Фото участников экспедиции

Due to an unfortunate event, the catamaran of the circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society got in an accident. In the Pacific Ocean, about halfway from Vanuatu to Australia, the vessel was attacked by cookiecutter sharks and sank. The crew gave a distress signal and was rescued by a Panamanian RORO, en route to Shanghai. However, the circumnavigation crew is not going to give up, the search for options to continue the voyage is already underway. They will be discussed in detail at a press conference scheduled for September 18.

“Despite the fact that the catamaran was lost in the Pacific Ocean, we are looking for options to continue the round-the-world expedition. Such events are tests on the way to achieving the main goal. The most important thing is that everything is fine with the crew!” stressed the head of the coastal staff of the expedition Yulia Kalyuzhnaya.

Multiple attacks by cookiecutter sharks on the catamaran of the circumnavigation began on September 3. These deep-sea beasts, capable of gnawing out whole pieces of meat even from whales with their sharp teeth, live in warm waters almost all over the world. They rise to the surface of the ocean at dusk and hunt until dawn, spreading a light glow around them. Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin found bite marks of the “cookiecutters” on the hulls of the catamaran back in Vanuatu. Then the marine predators failed to bite through the dense material.

“We managed to neutralize a serious hole in the left hull on the night of September 4th somehow during the day. Then we sailed with a partially submerged stern, but the attacks continued. The next hole, on the night of September 5th, turned out to be critical, because it was on the stern of the right hull,” said Evgeny Kovalevsky.

After the damage received, the catamaran's stern began to sink. The vessel had no chance to last until morning.

“At 2 o'clock in the morning, a rescue buoy was activated. We called Yulia Kalyuzhnaya, the head of the coastal staff of the expedition, by satellite phone. A rescue operation had begun," Kovalevsky added.

The rescue service of Australia sent a RORO Dugong Ace under the Panamanian flag to the sinking catamaran. The vessel, intended for the transportation of vehicles, approached the accident site at around 3 o'clock in the morning.

“The stern is already half a meter submerged in water. The threat of overturning was growing. The rescue operation lasted an hour and a half. The height of the vessel's side is about 15 m. Our port side began to be crushed under its side. There is a danger of capsizing,” said Evgeny Kovalevsky.

Only at 4:30 all three crew members – Evgeny Kovalevsky, Stanislav Berezkin, and Frenchman Vincent Beaujeu – were on the RORO. Before their eyes, the catamaran of the expedition began to sink. Unfortunately, there were no special devices for lifting it from the water on the Dugong Ace.

“We could not wait for the tragedy of the vessel sinking into the abyss – our rescuers had to hurry,’ Kovalevsky added.

The crew is not going to give up. They and the coastal headquarters intend to continue the expedition, despite the loss of the catamaran.

“We want to continue on another vessel, no longer inflatable, because we no longer have an inflatable vessel capable of long crossings. We will not set the planned sports record, but we are ready to continue the historical mission – to follow the path of the Russian expeditions of the 19th century, as well as continue the educational programs ‘Lesson from the Ocean’, the mission of people's diplomacy, shooting videos for films, and a scientific program,” said Evgeny Kovalevsky.

For now, Evgeny Kovalevsky, Stanislav Berezkin, and Vincent Beaujeu are on board the Dugong Ace, they feel good and have already made friends with the crew. The circumnavigators even held a meeting with the ship's crew, telling about their adventures. Meanwhile, the head of the coastal headquarters, Yulia Kalyuzhnaya, is looking for options to continue the expedition and is going to fly to Australia. A press conference is scheduled to take place on September 18, at which the project participants will talk about new plans.

On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.

Alexander Zhirnov