Missing vessel, Foveaux Strait area
September 26, 2014 6:53 AM   Subscribe

He does not believe himself to be an exceptional person but now understands that if you push yourself exceptional things can be done.
Eight men and one young boy left Bluff, near the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island, on a fishing and mutton-birding trip on the evening of 14 March 2012. Only one man made it back. This is the story of how he survived and his colleagues didn't.

Additional links:
Dallas Reedy speaks to reporters from his hospital bed.
Details of the Transport Accident Commission report into the disaster.
The full report (scroll down for PDF). Findings and analysis start on page 18.
posted by Sonny Jim (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Like all shipwreck stories, reading this made me never want to leave solid land ever again.

This is the story of how he survived and his colleagues didn't.

It sounded like a mix of luck (getting thrown free and being able to sit on top of the upturned boat until it sank, then finding the gas can) plus fortitude and life experiences that helped him stay calm and focused and resist hypothermia until he was found. He's fortunate to be alive.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:14 AM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

This story is horrifying, but then again over three decades had passed without a fatality in the area, and the skipper of the boat was, as described, terribly negligent. So more than likely, this tragedy was preventable.

Which doesn't lessen the awful loss and suffering, but does remind me not to be mindlessly scared of the sea because someone who should have known better was reckless.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:39 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The story itself is one of negligence and ineptitude. The survivor was both lucky and had fortitude. The coast guard volunteer also was lucky to have spotted him.

The story as written was somewhat confusing.
posted by 724A at 8:11 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Such offhanded carelessness in the operation of a vehicle in a dangerous area just makes my blood boil. I've run into it before, the idea that being on and around some type of vehicle a lot means it's "in your bones". But when that means familiarity breeds contempt--oh, being a deckhand is enough experience for being a skipper, oh, an uninspected poorly-loaded boat is just fine, oh have a beer, oh let's wing it--then people get killed.

I feel particularly tetchy about this I think because I've seen it with my dad. He was taking my brother and me out one time on his ramshackle boat, and as we're pulling out of the harbor into Lake Superior (surely a perfectly safe little pond!), he starts chatting to us about how his emergency/backup outboard wasn't working, and how his radio was having problems. Meanwhile the fog was rolling in, and the only way we'd be able to get back into the harbor was by eye, lining up the lighthouse beacon with a cleft in the rocks. He didn't understand why we wanted to go back in now. Would he have wanted to be in an obituary like that, I wonder, with longform articles talking about all the warning signs.

He's the same way with cars, driving shitty cars in dangerous conditions. The only time I trust his judgment with a vehicle is when he's flying aircraft, strangely enough, and that's because he's been very thoroughly trained, very highly certified, and actually keeps up on training and certification both. He follows his training and checklists down to the atom, no slack cut, and has enormous amounts of relevant experience. I get really upset at the idea of skippers/captains, who are responsible for the craft and the very lives of their passengers and crew, just winging it. It's not in your bones, you asshole, it's supposed to be in your brain.
posted by theatro at 8:13 AM on September 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

This story is horrifying, but then again over three decades had passed without a fatality in the area ...
This was certainly a manifestly preventable accident. But it's not an isolated case. Two people had drowned in a storm off the Titī Islands less than two months earlier. And six people died after a boat went down going to the mutton-birding grounds in 2006. So, while awful mistakes were made in each case, it's not by any means a forgiving body of water when things do go wrong.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2014

This story is hard for me to understand, but I guess that because I'm the kind of person who wouldn't even think about trying to buy a fishing boat I expected to operate myself until after I had gotten a Master's license.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:16 PM on September 26, 2014

Thanks, that was fascinating and heartbreaking. I was a bit confused too, but I liked the attempt to mix photos and text, and the whole thing is... uncluttered. Maybe he needed a more tech-conscious editor?
posted by sneebler at 5:16 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've visited Stewart Island, across that strait. Tourists have two options: the boat or the plane. No one, absolutely no one, makes light of the water crossing. Here's a light-hearted tourist article about how miserable it can be. We flew, best extra $50 I ever spent.
posted by Nelson at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

This story has been told over and over again in New Zealand, so what might be confusing to someone new to the story is already known to someone reading this particular article.

I spent my childhood in Riverton and Invercargill, looking across at Stewart Island/Rakiura and Foveaux Strait (I still get the 1980s jingle for Foveaux Radio stuck in my head). My grandfather went on search and recovery trips between the mainland and the Muttonbird Islands more than once. My parents and grandparents refused to take me across the strait because of its lethal history.

Recently I worked with someone whose father was on the Kotuku, which is mentioned briefly in this article. These are men whose life was the sea, and it's a nasty, mean piece of ocean down there. To say you fish around there is like taming something wild. Except, of course, you never really do.
posted by tracicle at 6:08 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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