The Berserk sailed from New Zealand to Antarctica in early 2011.

The Berserk sailed from New Zealand to Antarctica in early 2011.

On February 22, 2011, a Norwegian yacht sank off the coast of Antarctica and three of its crew were lost.

For a decade, it’s been alleged the New Zealand Navy instructed the boat to leave safe anchorage despite a storm warning.

A major investigation by Stuff casts doubt on that claim and has found Maritime New Zealand did not respond to the boat’s emergency beacon for more than an hour, due to a “mistake”.

LEE KENNY reports on the sinking of the Berserk.

This story is featured on Stuff’s The Long Read podcast. Check it out by hitting the play button below, or find it on podcast apps like Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts.

The HMNZS Wellington facing rough seas as it responds to the Berserk’s distress call.

The HMNZS Wellington facing rough seas as it responds to the Berserk’s distress call.

The storm was ferocious. The winds neared 200 kilometres per hour and icebergs were tossed around by 10-metre waves. A New Zealand naval commander would later describe it as the worst conditions he had experienced in three decades at sea. Before it was over, it claimed the lives of three men: Leonard Banks, 32, Tom Gisle Bellika, 36, and Robert Skaanes, 34.

They were members of the ‘Wild Vikings’, a group of adventurers who sailed to Antarctica in a yacht called Berserk. Two other team mates - Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Massie - were ashore, attempting an audacious expedition to the South Pole. They called themselves the Berserkers, an Old Norse word meaning fierce warrior.

At first glance, the Berserk was not a typical Antarctic boat. She had shark’s teeth painted on the hull and her name was emblazoned on the sides, graffiti-style. At 14m she was relatively small - especially to be sailing the heavy seas of the Southern Ocean - but she was ice-strengthened and her crew were highly competent sailors. One was South African/British, four were Norwegian. They flew the Kongeflagget, the red, white and blue Norwegian flag, from their stern.

After leaving New Zealand in January 2011, they sailed to Antarctica to mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole.

Captain Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to reach the South Pole in December 1911.

Captain Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to reach the South Pole in December 1911.

The vessel was skippered by Andhoy, the expedition leader. With pale blue eyes and unkempt hair, Andhoy cut a sort of rockstar adventurer figure. He had a reputation for his daring exploits, but he could also be reckless. Once, as part of a Bear Grylls-style documentary on Norwegian TV, he approached a wild polar bear. On another occasion he had a dangerously close encounter with a walrus.

His Antarctic endeavour was no different. If successful, he and Massie would be the first people to reach the bottom of the earth on quad bikes. But to get there they would face freezing temperatures and the risk of falling into one of the many crevasses, the deep fissures that scar the Antarctic landscape. The other issue was the timing. Most South Pole expeditions are launched between November and January, ideally after wintering-over on the ice. The Berserkers planned to cross the frozen continent in February, late in the polar season when the weather would be much worse.

After Andhoy and Massie went ashore, Banks, Bellika and Skaanes dropped anchor in a sheltered cove in McMurdo Sound. The plan was they would wait until the land team returned. But, inexplicably, the three men decided to leave the bay, and sail into a polar storm. They were never seen again.

Samuel Massie during the college course in northern Norway.

Samuel Massie during the college course in northern Norway.

Samuel Massie was a typical disaffected teen. The son of a Norwegian mother and British father, he was studying mechanical engineering at a tertiary college in Bergen, but he frequently skipped classes. He also smoked weed and came close to being arrested for possession when a local dealer asked him to sell dope for him. Life could have turned out very differently.

One day, he arrived home to find a letter informing him his application to attend an outdoor college in northern Norway had been accepted. Massie was confused. Eventually his mother confessed: she’d applied for him.

Massie thrived at the college and caught the eye of charismatic sailing instructor Jarle Andhoy. At the end of the course, Andhoy took Massie aside and said he was impressed with the teenager’s seamanship and determination. He explained his plan to celebrate Amundsen’s voyage, and offered him a place on the Berserk. Massie didn’t hesitate.

“Count me in,” he said.

Samuel Massie and Jarle Andhoy in Norway.

Samuel Massie and Jarle Andhoy in Norway.

It was mid-2010. Massie was 17-years-old and had to get his parents’ permission before joining the crew of Berserk. After a two-day stopover in Singapore, he flew to Darwin, Australia, where he met his shipmates.

Robert Skaanes, a childhood friend of Andhoy, was the boat’s chef. A former gymnast, he served in the military and had a young daughter in Norway, whose picture he carried everywhere he went.

Lenny Banks was a carpenter who lived for surfing and reggae music. A South African and British national, he had long blond hair, a laid-back manner and an easy smile. Everyone agreed he was the ladies’ man of the group.

American Edwin Kumar was Berserk’s engine man. He had studied aerospace engineering at UCLA, earning the nickname ‘Rocket’. He met Skaanes and Banks while backpacking in Asia and agreed to join their crew. He was only meant to go as far as Darwin but picked up sailing quickly and was good with a video camera. Andhoy was shooting a TV documentary about the voyage and asked Kumar to go with them to Antarctica. He accepted. It was the trip of a lifetime.

From Australia, the Berserkers sailed through the Torres Strait Islands and around Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Massie later wrote an account of the expedition entitled Hold Fast and it reads like a Boys' Own adventure. They swam in shark-infested waters, visited deserted islands and met isolated tribes people.

About this time, Kumar began to question Andhoy’s leadership. The skipper ran a tight ship - the crew were clear in their duties and there was no alcohol on board - but when they were ashore, Kumar says, Andhoy’s behaviour would attract trouble.

His motto was ‘lock your daughters away, the Berserkers are in town’. He got his ass kicked multiple times.
Edwin Kumar

Andhoy’s cavalier approach extended to officialdom. He did not have the consent of the Norwegian Polar Institute to visit Antarctica and had not completed a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment, a requirement under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.

Things between Kumar and Andhoy deteriorated further during the Pacific crossing. Kumar scraped his knee and his leg became infected. It swelled badly and he was unable to walk. Instead of helping his crew member get medical attention, Kumar says Andhoy told him to “toughen the f... up”.

Edwin “Rocket” Kumar was a member of the Berserk’s crew in the months before the ship sank.

Edwin “Rocket” Kumar was a member of the Berserk’s crew in the months before the ship sank.

By the time the Berserk reached New Zealand, Kumar was done. He was concerned about heading south so late in the season and says Andhoy kept delaying the departure, blaming sponsors for not coming through. Kumar suspects the timing was deliberate, to ensure they got better footage for the documentary. A mutual friend had told him, “Jarle likes bad weather because bad weather makes good TV”.

Kumar’s concerns were not unfounded. Before setting sail, Andhoy asked the crew to sign a contract stating they were “fully aware of all dangers and the high risk of the expedition”. “I participate at the risk of losing my life in the harsh environment, and will not hold the expedition leader or the captain responsible for any loss of life,” it said.

In the end, Kumar quit. Before he left, Andhoy insisted they film his farewell for the documentary. Each of the crew had paid a medical retainer and Kumar says Andhoy would only return the cash after the scene was shot. As he stood at the Auckland marina he felt tears well in his eyes.

“Goodbye friends,” he thought, “I won’t see you again.”

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Sea ice in McMurdo Sound.

Sea ice in McMurdo Sound.

The Berserk was heavily laden as she left Auckland. As well as the two quad bikes, she carried fuel, cold weather gear and enough food to winter-over. Anything that didn’t fit into a storage space was lashed to the deck.

Kumar’s replacement was Tom Gisle Bellika, a Norwegian who had previously sailed Canada’s Northwest Passage with Andhoy. Known as ‘the horse from the north’, he was two metres tall and broad-shouldered, the embodiment of a rough, tough sailor. He impressed his crew mates by standing on the bow and pushing the giant icebergs aside with his bare hands.

The plan was to head as far south as possible, so the quad bike team would have less distance to travel over land. It was tough sailing. The cold winds were biting and the waves were like a roller coaster. The crew had to keep a constant lookout for icebergs, each taking watch throughout the night.

It was still unknown who would remain on the Berserk and who would push for the South Pole with Andhoy. Roald Amundsen is revered in Norway, much like Sir Edmund Hillary in New Zealand, so it made sense that another Norwegian would go. As they neared Antarctica, Andhoy took Massie aside and told him he would be the one. The teenager was overjoyed.

The Berserk sailed into McMurdo Sound, the southernmost navigable water in the world, on February 11. Andhoy showed the shipbound-crew where they would wait: a small cove on Ross Island named Horseshoe Bay. They were only to leave, he told them, if ice forced them out.

The HMNZS Wellington was the New Zealand Navy's newest offshore patrol vessel (OPV) when it was deployed to the lower Southern Ocean and the western Ross Sea in early 2011.

The HMNZS Wellington was the New Zealand Navy's newest offshore patrol vessel (OPV) when it was deployed to the lower Southern Ocean and the western Ross Sea in early 2011.

The Berserk wasn’t the only ship heading into McMurdo Sound that week.

The New Zealand Navy frigate, the HMNZS Wellington, was charting a similar course, a few days behind. The newly-commissioned patrol ship was conducting sea trials in the lower Southern Ocean, the first time the New Zealand Navy had operated in Antarctic waters for 40 years. At the helm was lieutenant commander Simon Griffiths, a clean-cut and cool-headed career naval officer.

The Wellington entered McMurdo Sound in the early hours of February 21. At 7.30am, the crew sailed into Backdoor Bay, a sheltered natural harbour just south of Horseshoe Bay. To their surprise, they found the Berserk anchored there. Private ships frequently sail to Antarctica, but favour the more accessible Antarctic Peninsula, south of Argentina. Few visit Ross Island, where New Zealand’s Scott Base and America’s McMurdo Station are located. In the summer months the area is home to a steady stream of scientists, military personnel and other staff – most of whom fly down from Christchurch.

McMurdo Station, the United States’ base in Antarctica.

McMurdo Station, the United States’ base in Antarctica.

If the crew of the Wellington were surprised to see the Berserk, it’s not difficult to imagine Banks, Bellika and Skaanes being equally startled. As it was, the Wild Vikings were the ones who initiated radio contact. They saw the encounter as a chance to score some cigarettes. But of the Wellington’s 58 crew, only seven were smokers and, with a long voyage ahead, they were reluctant to part with their tobacco. One crew member offered them a cigar.

As part of its exercises, the Wellington planned to land some crew and visit Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut, the base for his historic 1907-09 expedition. At 9am, a group of sailors headed ashore in a dinghy. They visited the Berserk and brought the Wild Vikings fresh fruit and vegetables, the lone cigar, and a warning: a storm was forecast.

Some of the Wellington’s crew went ashore in Backdoor Bay. The Berserk is circled on the right.

Some of the Wellington’s crew went ashore in Backdoor Bay. The Berserk is circled on the right.

Griffiths would later describe the exchange as “warm, jovial and informal” but the Berserkers did not disclose the real reason for their voyage to Antarctica. “There was no mention of landing two people on the ice,” a former Wellington crew member says, “Let alone the attempt at the Pole.”

Before they parted, someone took a photo of Banks, Bellika and Skaanes as they stood on deck. The Berserk’s mainsail is neatly folded away and the tattered Norwegian flag flies on the breeze. The sky is blue and the sea is calm. There's no indication of the tempest about to be unleashed.

This is the last known sighting of the crew of the Berserk. This image was taken the day before the boat was lost on February 22, 2011. From left: Lenny Banks, Robert Skaanes, Tom Gisle Bellika.

This is the last known sighting of the crew of the Berserk. This image was taken the day before the boat was lost on February 22, 2011. From left: Lenny Banks, Robert Skaanes, Tom Gisle Bellika.

The Berserk’s emergency radio beacon was activated at 5.53pm New Zealand time on February 22, 2011. Official accounts of what happened next differ but what follows is taken from a report presented to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 2011.

The Berserk was out at sea, 18 nautical miles (33km) north of Scott Base, when the beacon went off. It is not known if it was triggered by the crew or automatically activated when it came into contact with water. The signal was received by Maritime New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) in Wellington but it was confused with another Norwegian yacht off the Australian coast with a similar identification code. By chance, the other vessel’s beacon had also been activated that day. As a result of the “mistake”, the Berserk’s distress call wasn’t acted upon for 72 minutes.

By that time, it was too late. The beacon ceased transmission after 45 minutes, suggesting the Berserk sank more than 10m below the surface, the maximum depth the emergency device could operate.

Nine days into their land expedition, Andhoy and Massie were also caught in the storm. More than 200km from the coast, they were enveloped in a whiteout. Even before it hit, the journey had been tough going and they still had more than 1000km to go until they reached the Pole. The all-terrain vehicles they used had been fitted with tracks rather than wheels to get them across the ice but they frequently became bogged in the deep snow. The pair travelled for days with almost no sleep. As well as the freezing temperatures there was the risk of disappearing into a crevasse.

As a safety precaution, they were in contact with the Berserk every six hours via satellite phone. When the storm hit, the crew didn’t answer the call. At 7.40pm – almost two hours after it was activated – RCCNZ relayed the distress signal to the HMNZS Wellington, which was 30 nautical miles (55km) from the Berserk’s last known location.

The HMNZS Wellington faced rough seas as it responded to the Berserk’s distress call.

The HMNZS Wellington faced rough seas as it responded to the Berserk’s distress call.

The Wellington has a top speed of 22 knots (40.7kmh). In good conditions she could have reached the site in 82 minutes. That day, the treacherous journey took more than eight hours.

“We were headed into the winds, doing two or three knots,” the former Wellington crew member says, “If we turned it would have capsized us.”

At the storm’s peak, winds reached 185km/h and waves swelled to 10m. Later estimates suggested between seven and 10 tonnes of ice froze to the Wellington’s upper decks and superstructure, increasing the risk of capsizing the 85m warship. The frigate was damaged and four of its six liferafts were lost overboard.

Thick ice built up on the Wellington during the storm.

Thick ice built up on the Wellington during the storm.

It remains the worst conditions I have experienced in my 30-year career.
lieutenant commander Simon Griffiths

Upon reaching the activation site nothing could be seen of the Berserk or her crew. The Wellington scoured the seas for three hours before calling off its search. Amid the chaos, Griffiths was notified about the devastating Christchurch earthquake and kept the news to himself for 12 hours.

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Under international law, any ship is required to come to the aid of another in distress. Along with the Wellington, two other vessels responded to the Berserk’s emergency beacon.

One was the Steve Irwin, a 59m ship that was part of the Sea Shepherd fleet. It had been in the Southern Ocean pursuing Japanese whalers. Captain Paul Watson co-founded Greenpeace in 1972 and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. He knew the Southern Ocean well. All up, he had spent three years navigating the waters around Antarctica. He guided his ship towards the distress signal location in increasingly dire conditions.

The crew of the Steve Irwin carried out an extensive search for the Berserk.

The crew of the Steve Irwin carried out an extensive search for the Berserk.

“The seas were actually trying to freeze around us,” he says.

Conditions had improved by the time they arrived in McMurdo Sound. The Steve Irwin carries its own helicopter, which Watson dispatched to search the area. Starting where the distress signal was last recorded, the helicopter searched for 14 hours, refueling several times at McMurdo Station. In the calm waters, the helicopter crew spotted food packets and life jackets from the Berserk, but no sign of the missing men.

The Steve Irwin’s helicopter spotted an empty liferaft during its 14-hour search.

The Steve Irwin’s helicopter spotted an empty liferaft during its 14-hour search.

The third ship to join the search was the Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov), a ship that ran Antarctic cruises from New Zealand. The crew received the beacon’s coordinates and also began a grid search. Even the passengers were out on deck, scanning the water with binoculars for any sign of the Berserk.

On the ship was Rodney Russ, founder of Christchurch-based tour company Heritage Expeditions. He has visited Antarctica more than 50 times and knows McMurdo Sound intimately. He suspects the Berserk either hit floating ice or had ice on the mast and rigging, making it top heavy, and causing it to capsize.

Russ admires anyone with an adventurous spirit, but says Andhoy’s polar expedition was “ill-conceived and doomed to failure”.

Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov) also responded to the search for the Berserk.

Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov) also responded to the search for the Berserk.

“You need to do your homework. There's no way in the world that they could reach the South Pole on quad bikes at that time of the year.

You don't start going to the South Pole in mid-February.
Rodney Russ

New Zealand’s Scott Base.

New Zealand’s Scott Base.

After failing to make radio contact with the Berserk, Andhoy and Massie grew seriously concerned. On February 24, Andhoy used the satellite phone to call a contact in Norway who told them the boat was missing. The pair abandoned the journey to the South Pole and headed back to Scott Base.

On February 25, the crew of the Steve Irwin recovered the Berserk’s damaged liferaft, 45 miles north of where the beacon was first triggered. There was no-one inside. The liferaft had not been used but the first aid kit and survival knife were missing.

The crew of the Steve Irwin recovered the Berserk’s liferaft.

The crew of the Steve Irwin recovered the Berserk’s liferaft.

Paul Watson wasn’t surprised. From the moment he heard about the distress signal, he doubted anyone would be found alive. “It most likely came down on a growler (a smaller iceberg) and it crushed the hull. It went down real fast.”

Rodney Russ agrees. Seawater freezes at -1.8 degrees Celsius and he doubts the water the Berserk crew went into would have been much warmer than that. Survival time would have been two minutes, at most. “That's the only good thing about it,” Russ says, “It would have been all over very quickly.”

HMNZS Wellington weathers the storm during sea trials in the Southern Ocean in February 2011. Interview with commanding officer Simon Griffiths released by New Zealand Defence Force in February 2012.

On March 1, a week after the distress signal was activated, RCCNZ formally suspended the search. It had been vast, covering more than 2.4 million hectares of the Ross Sea. The official report recorded that the three boats - the HMNZS Wellington, the Steve Irwin and the Spirit of Enderby - searched for a total of 141 hours.

A decade on, it remains a mystery why the crew of the Berserk would have left safe anchorage and sailed out to sea, knowing a storm was coming.

During this investigation, three theories emerged.

The most incendiary implicates the New Zealand Navy: that the Wellington ordered the Berserk, uninvited and lacking any formal permission, to leave Backdoor Bay.

In a Facebook post in 2016, on the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Andhoy wrote: “Our shipmates disappeared in the Ross Sea after contact with (the) New Zealand Navy.

“Today we know that the New Zealand Navy, polar authorities and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway and New Zealand withheld information, lies about circumstances (sic), has stolen expedition gear and erased the last traces of the Berserk expedition 2011.”

He later doubled down on the theory, telling the Outside Online website that the Wellington made contact with the Berserk three times, was carrying out surveillance, and New Zealand “set a strategy to offer no hospitality”.

Samuel Massie too doubts the “cigar” version and suspects the Wellington ordered the Berserk to leave. “I have got no idea what would make anybody leave a safe harbour into the storm,” he says, “That is illogical. You just don't do it.”

Paul Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977.

Paul Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977.

Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin, goes even further. In an interview with Stuff, he accused the New Zealand Navy not just of complicity, but conspiracy.

“I think that the Wellington ordered these people out of the harbour and then they tried to cover up the fact that they had any responsibility in the fact that the vessel went down, he says.

“There's no other explanation as to why they would have left a safe harbour, while they were waiting for two other crew to return from their excursion to the South Pole.

New Zealand was very hostile to any vessels landing in the vicinity of Ross Island without prior permission.
Paul Watson

Stuff sought a transcript of the communication between the Wellington and the Berserk under the Official Information Act but the request was declined.

Simon Griffiths is now a captain in the New Zealand Navy. Picture taken in 2010.

Simon Griffiths is now a captain in the New Zealand Navy. Picture taken in 2010.

However, Simon Griffiths tells Stuff that no order to leave was given.

“At no stage was any instruction or recommendation given to the yacht by any person from HMNZS Wellington.

“Any loss of life at sea is distressing, and I still think about the loss of the Berserk.”

The second theory is that the crew left of their own volition.

Rodney Russ is the founder of Heritage Expeditions. Image taken in 2011.

Rodney Russ is the founder of Heritage Expeditions. Image taken in 2011.

Heritage Expeditions' Rodney Russ questions how safe Backdoor Bay would have been in a storm. “It’s a precarious anchor at the best of times,” he says, “There's not a lot of anchoring room there.” Such a severe storm would empty “push ice” out into open water, Russ says, making the harbour unsafe. “Some of that is multi-year ice and it's rock hard… They would soon be surrounded by ice, I don't think they had an option but to leave.” Russ thinks the Berserk crew probably did the right thing sailing out of Backdoor Bay, they just left it too late.

Lou Sanson, chief executive of Antarctica New Zealand from 2002 to 2013, remembers the incident well. He agrees Backdoor Bay would have been dangerous in the storm. “It's exposed as hell to the south,” he says. “It would seem to me to be good seamanship to look after the yacht and get into open water.”

Lou Sanson headed Antarctica New Zealand for nine years.

Lou Sanson headed Antarctica New Zealand for nine years.

The third theory emerged during this investigation. Edwin Kumar, the one-time Berserk engine man, says Massie told him that he and Andhoy were beaten down by the weather on their way to the South Pole. Faced with freezing to death, Andhoy contacted the Berserk to come and get them.

“Jarle called them and said ‘mayday, come and help us, come rescue us’,” Kumar says, “They had a meet up spot if s... hit the ceiling.

“That's why they left that anchorage. Jarle flipped it and said [NZ Navy] told them to leave.”

Kumar was in Australia when he got a call that the Berserk’s emergency beacon had gone off and a search was under way. Having assisted in kitting out the yacht, his name and number were registered with RCCNZ.

“That's why I don't believe Jarle when they said the New Zealand [Navy] kicked them off,” he says.

They wouldn’t kick out a f...ing vessel right before a major storm and then risk going to save them.
Edwin Kumar

As “self-proclaimed pirates”, the Berserk crew would not have left even if ordered to by the authorities, he says. “Those guys were trained not to leave. The only reason they would have left is if it came from Jarle.”

Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Massie face the media at Christchurch Airport after being flown back from Antarctica.

Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Massie face the media at Christchurch Airport after being flown back from Antarctica.

Lou Sanson was one of the first people to talk to Andhoy and Massie after their aborted mission. Having abandoned the South Pole expedition, the pair travelled for 72 hours straight to reach Scott Base. They left their quad bikes and other equipment and caught the final flight of the season back to Christchurch. Sanson interviewed them when they arrived.

Andhoy made no allegations against the New Zealand Navy at that time, he says. The leader of the Wild Vikings was more concerned about the search for the crew.

“He was convinced that his mates were still alive and he was trying to mount another rescue mission,” Sanson says.

He was pleading for more resources to keep searching.
Lou Sanson

Sanson grilled Andhoy about the preparation for the expedition and the lack of environmental permits. “He said he knew what he was doing, he was polar trained in Norway. He just brushed me off.”

Andhoy was approached for this story but said he would not comment if Massie and Kumar were also quoted. He described Kumar’s theory as “bulls...”. Massie also denies it and says Kumar may have misunderstood the situation.

Despite protests from the families of the dead men, Andhoy’s plans for a documentary on the expedition went ahead. A nine-part series aired on Norwegian television in 2012. The last two episodes show the Berserkers battling the elements to reach the frozen continent. That the footage even exists is remarkable. Andhoy carried all of it – several bags’ worth – with him on the South Pole trek, instead of stowing it on the Berserk.

Kumar always found that strange. “That is something you would leave on the boat if you felt the boat was secure.”

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Ruined buildings in Manchester St, central Christchurch, in the days following the earthquake on February 22 2011.

Ruined buildings in Manchester St, central Christchurch, in the days following the earthquake on February 22 2011.

The story of the Berserk has gone largely untold in New Zealand. The tragedy happened on the same day as a much larger one – the Christchurch earthquake, which killed 185 people – so it was barely mentioned in the media at the time.

Edwin Kumar now lives in Hawaii.

Edwin Kumar now lives in Hawaii.

But more than a decade on, it still looms large in the lives of those involved. Kumar has thought a lot about what he would have done if he hadn’t left the Berserk in Auckland.

“I would have abandoned the boat and gone to shore until the storm blew over,” he says.

I wouldn't have raised sails and started the motor and gone into the middle of the storm, never in a million years.
Edwin Kumar

Banks, Bellika and Skaanes did go ashore, albeit briefly, in Backdoor Bay. Research by Stuff confirmed they visited a shelter near Shackleton’s Hut and signed the visitors’ book the day of the fatal storm.

The interior of Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island.

The interior of Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island.

Kumar now lives in Hawaii and sails in the Pacific. “I still sail a lot but I'm a very cautious sailor. I do everything the opposite of what Jarle taught me.”

Looking back, Lenny Banks’ sister Charlene also holds Andhoy responsible for the loss of the crew.

“I do blame Jarle,” she says, “Because it was unsafe. It was late in the season.

Ultimately, he is the captain of the ship and he's the one that's responsible.
Charlene Banks

Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, the Banks twins were inseparable. Lenny was born first, Charlene followed two minutes later.

“He was my best friend, my protector,” she says, “He was everything to me.”

In their last conversation, when Lenny was in Auckland, he told her he might not make it back from Antarctica.

“He said, ‘It's a 50/50 chance, but it's the risk I'm willing to take for the adventure of a lifetime’.

“I tried very hard to get him off the boat.”

Charlene Banks now lives on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Not a day passes that she doesn’t miss her brother.

“I’m living for the two of us. I just have to keep on carrying on. I have all these unanswered questions but I don't think they are ever going to be answered.

“I have to accept that they are gone.”

Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Massie returned to Antarctica in February 2012 in a yacht named Nilaya.

Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Massie returned to Antarctica in February 2012 in a yacht named Nilaya.

In 2012, Andhoy and Massie sailed back to Antarctica to search for wreckage and recover the quad bikes and equipment. None of it was there.

During that second voyage a short service was held to honour their crewmates, a year after they were lost. Andhoy delivered the eulogy in Norwegian and English. The scene was recorded and edited to music and appeared on his Facebook page. In 2014, Norwegian authorities fined Andhoy 45,000 Norwegian kroner (NZD$8360) for violating environmental protection protocols in the Antarctic Treaty.

Today, Samuel Massie’s life is unrecognisable from when he was a teenager in Bergen. After gaining prominence as a Berserker, he was invited to appear on Skal vi danse? (Shall We Dance?), the Norwegian version of the hit show Dancing with the Stars. He didn’t win. But he was a hugely popular contestant and returned the following year as the show’s host.

Samuel Massie is now a household name in Norway after appearing as a contestant on Skal vi danse?.

Samuel Massie is now a household name in Norway after appearing as a contestant on Skal vi danse?.

He has since become a household name in Norway; his lovelife, marriage and subsequent divorce fueling the gossip columns. “My life has truly changed,” he says, “It started with my story on the Berserk.” As well as adjusting to his newfound celebrity, Massie has wrestled with the fact that if Andhoy had chosen someone else to attempt the Pole, he would not be alive today.

I’ve thought about it definitely, many times.
Samuel Massie

The next most likely candidate would have been Robert Skaanes. Massie has been in close contact with Skaanes’ parents and says they have thought about it too.

Samuel Massie today. He says he still thinks about his lost shipmates.

Samuel Massie today. He says he still thinks about his lost shipmates.

“In the start, I think they felt that I had taken their son's life, in a way. Which is understandable.

Even though it's 10 years since, you still think about it. If not every day, it's every week. It's like flashes. You carry it with you.
Samuel Massie

WORDS: Lee Kenny
VISUALS: Robyn Edie, Michael Field, Gareth Morgan, Jonny Harrison, Ross Giblin, John Hawkins, Jericho Rock-Archer, Neil Macbeth, Phil Reid, Sea Shepherd & New Zealand Defense Force
DESIGN & LAYOUT: Aaron Wood
EDITOR: Michael Wright

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