Who Owns the Wilderness?

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“Who gave you the right to plant your flag and call this land yours? You people give us nothing but misery. You call yourselves our Kings and Governors but you are only the Lords of our suffering.”

Nuuntuuq, The Yukon

Here is the extraordinary story of the Norwegian sailing yacht Berserk and the death of her brave crew in the wild Southern Ocean. A perilous voyage through two frozen lands. A shipwreck… but not for all of them a watery grave.

Judge for yourself the rights and wrongs of their infamous voyage south. Their story is one of bravery, of reckless tragedy and aftermath not often seen in our modern world of comfortable luxury travel, when explorers and discoverers are no more than glossy magazine travel writers following well worn trails. Whatever your opinion, what cannot be denied is the incredible adventure of Berserk and her crew…

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The deaths of Robert Skaane, Tom Bellica and Leonard Banks is still heatedly debated by those who inhabit the polar regions, by established experts of the sailing fraternity and the government authorities who control the Arctic and Antarctica wilderness. The skipper of Berserk, Jarle Andhøy, survived, as did Andhøy’s eighteen year old companion on the south Polar ice, Sam Massie. I knew Skaane, Bellica and their leader Andhøy well, we became good friends. I didn’t know Banks or Massie.

Andhøy and his crew set out to challenge the authority of the governments and organisations who administer the last great wildernesses of the arctic and antarctic. Amundsen, the great Norwegian explorer who discovered the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean and was the first to reach the South Pole, was Andhøy’s inspiration and hero. He journeyed to recreate the great Norseman spirit that Amundsen nurtured, the same ‘Wild Viking’ voyages that first discovered Greenland and frozen North America long before Columbus. In doing so, Andhøy’s crew died a miserable death during a violent Southern Ocean storm.

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Background.
The story for myself begins in remote Kudat, north Borneo, a rundown jungle boatyard serving local Malay and Philippino fisherman. My sailing boat Sänna was hauled out of the water to fix her rudder, I was helped by my very good Yorkshire friend Neil who’d married a pretty local Malay woman… but, enough of that.

imageBefore we took Sänna out of the water, Berserk anchored beside us and asked for our assistance. They needed dive gear to inspect damage to their prop shaft. We carried scuba tanks onboard and Neil and myself dived their boat in the murky waters of Kudat harbour with Andhøy to inspect their damage. Berserk’s prop had been damaged by ice in the arctic’s Northwest Passage, through which they’d forced a way to get into the Pacific from the Atlantic.

It transpired Berserk needed to be hauled too and for the next six weeks we drank good Malay beer and talked long talks, often late into the mosquito infected humid nights. Neil and I got to know these tough Norwegians well.

There were other first world hardcore sailors in Kudat boatyard too and we formed the usual close knit circle… deep friendships that are difficult to explain to those who sleep well in their beds each night. Vagabond, evasive sailors who’ve chosen to drop out of mainstream living, we understood Andhøy’s philosophy and reasoning. We all listened to his hypothesis and theories, he was supported by his eager crew, avid converts… disciples of the extreme challenge against authoritarian control. Here was a guy who articulately explained his theory of true freedom, the freedom to travel and go anywhere without recourse to permissions, permits and government doctrines. “A world without borders and kings, ” he said. We were impressed… and, of course, bought him more beer. But, enough of that.

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The day before we ourselves sailed from Kudat, with Sänna’s rudder fixed and other essential maintenance completed, Berserk herself sailed south across the equator, heading for New Zealand. It was a sad farewell common amongst the long distance live-aboard sail boat communities who frequent remote locations. We never saw them again.

Only a few months later I heard the terrible news that Berserk had disappeared in the Ross Sea, without trace with all hands onboard presumed dead. You can read about the loss of Berserk here, although you won’t read the full story. Some months after Berserk’s loss I was contacted, out of the blue, by Andhøy… I myself do not wish to pass judgement on what I’m about to tell you but I have my personal views which I will keep to myself. I will give you the facts about what happened for you to form your own opinion. You may be disturbed but hopefully I will enlighten you too. Don’t worry, this is not a conspiracy theory or spooky ghost story to frighten you or anything like that. Well, maybe not quite…

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News
I’m writing about all of this on my blog knowing that few mainstream media publications and web portals will print my version of events, which, let’s remember are going to be neutral. You’re going to make your own decision right? Nor would I expect them to print the things I’m going to tell you.

Andhøy inspires controversy – which sells news providing everyone’s on the right side. The readers, listeners and viewers are important to the media and they are vital to their advertising clients too. The sinking of Berserk has already been covered by the media and other bloggers hunting traffic, almost universally condemning Andhøy out of hand. Here is a typical example, and here too. It’s ironic that none of these experts have ever met Andhøy or listened to his point of view… but, enough of that.

Firstly, let me tell you that Andhøy is no sailing novice. Nor were his crew onboard Berserk. Skaane and Bellica were highly experienced for their age… just about as tough as they come. We sailors in Kudat interrogated them intensely about their experience, skills and knowledge of the sea. We do that, maybe it’s a measure of own insecurities or just a way of ensuring the uniqueness of our own little exclusive “club”. We are not the respected voice of the established sailing heroes. Universally we agreed the three of them were of exceptional ability and undoubtedly unique. I cannot vouch for Banks and Massie because I never met them.

Curiously, I’ve since learned from a source close to Andhøy that Sam Massie, who survived the sinking of Berserk and was only eighteen at the time, is the inherited wealth ‘finance’ money for Andhøy’s Antarctic venture. Skaane and Bellica paid him too. They told me this in confidence in Kudat. But, I would like to point out, throughout history, every explorer and every expedition has had to be funded somehow. Some of Scott’s Antarctic expedition paid Scott too. I tell you this to give you the background you need to know… but, enough of that.

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Andhøy
Only thirty three years old when Berserk Jarle Andhøy was lost, Andhøy was already a vastly experienced arctic sailor, having explored both the northern Arctic and the southern Antarctic from the age of nineteen. Get this… in 1996, following in the tradition of his own acclaimed hero Amundsen, Andhøy sailed solo from his home town of Larvik in Norway to the Antarctic peninsular… and back, a distance of over nineteen thousand miles in his small, twenty seven foot, Albin Vega built boat also called Berserk. Believe me… this is an incredibly long and perilous journey alone in a twenty seven foot boat at only nineteen years of age. Furthermore, Berserk had no heating or engine. It’s worth noting that very few of Andhøy’s many critics mention these amazing facts but, then, you will see why when I tell you what happened. By the way, if you want to read more about Amundsen then you can do so here.

Heading south to the frozen Antarctic peninsular in his little twenty seven foot boat, Andhøy sailed around the infamous southern Cape Horn, a storm lashed ocean that’s seen the cruel death of countless numbers of much larger vessels. For rest and supplies he put into the remote port of Ushuaia in Terra del Fuego, Southern Argentina. Ushuaia is the world’s most southern town and it’s a wild, windy, weather beaten place. You can read about Ushuaia here. It’s now, in Ushuaia, that David Mercy, an American writer joins our story and things change. Mercy and Andhøy became friends and sailed the Drake Passage to Antarctica together. Then, with Andhøy, Mercy returned north to Larvik on Berserk. Shortly after arriving home in Norway, Andhøy’s first Berserk mysteriously sank in Larvik harbour.

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Improper Paperwork.
In June 2002, Andhøy and Mercy sailed north to the Arctic in a second Albin Vega, Berserk II, following in the path of the great Viking chief Onthere. They planned to sail as far as possible towards the North Pole. You can read about about the Viking Chiefs and Onthere here. At the time no other sailing vessel had sailed so far north in the arctic seas.

Returning south, Berserk II called in to Longyearbyen on the frozen Norwegian island of Svalbard. They needed supplies and some rest following their epic voyage north. But, the governor of Svalbard charged Andhøy, as the skipper, with sailing without insurance and for failing to submit a route-plan. He was fined twenty thousand Norwegian Kroner and refused permission to continue in Svalbard’s waters. Andhøy did not pay the fine.

The case was taken to Court and, using their own testimony as evidence, Andhøy and Mercy were also charged with environmental crimes, including unauthorised landings in protected areas and for provoking a polar bear. They were found guilty and fined a further twenty five thousand Norwegian Kronor plus imprisonment for thirty days. The sentence was later reduced to five thousand Kroner and the imprisonment suspended for two years. Andhøy did not pay the fine.

Andhøy complained to ourselves in Kudat, with some bitterness, that, as a self proclaimed adventurer and explorer, he did not believe in the authorities of governments and their self imposed control over vast uninhabitable wilderness. We drank and talked at length in the warm and sodden evenings of the Borneo jungle. His nemesis was the world of permits and permissions and insurance and of unfair Courts of Justice. Nevertheless, passage plans are a very useful navigation aid and every sensible skipper produces one… for his own use. But, enough of that.

I tell you this because what follows is a seaman’s tale of extreme and rebellious bravery, recklessness and tragedy in a cold wilderness that’s killed a good many men long before the deaths of my friends Skaane and Bellica and of Banks too.

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BerserkThe Northwest Passage  Moving on, in 2004, Andhøy and a friend, Aldred Rosén, attempted a second voyage. However, the Norwegian Police tried to prevent their departure since they believed Mercy, who was still sought in connection with the previous environmental charges and unpaid fine, was also onboard. After a hurried midnight sailing from Larvik, the Norwegian Coastguard caught, stopped and searched Berserk II near Vardø but Mercy was not found onboard. Andhøy later revealed to a captivated jungle audience that he believed Mercy was hiding in Vardø disguised as a local taxi driver.

To avoid the increasingly hostile Norwegian authorities of his own country, Andhøy, Rosén and Mercy continued to Russia onboard Bersek II; to Arkhangelsk and through the White Sea-Baltic Canal to St Petersburg and the Baltic Sea. You can read about this amazing canal route here. This in itself is a yet another incredible journey, they were pursued by their own Coast Guard but the friendly Russians, sympathetic to their plight and no doubt politically motivated, let them pass. Returning to Norway all three were arrested but the growing celebrity status of Andhøy with the Norwegian younger generation, especially female, made the authorities reluctant to prosecute Andhøy who was increasingly being feted as a hero. Mercy wasn’t so fortunate although he avoided arrest by travelling clandestinely to Europe. It pays not to bother polar bears and to pay your insurance premiums.

In 2007, Andhøy left the Baltic to explore and transit the arctic’s Northwest Passage, sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean along the Canadian coast. By now Andhøy had a new Berserk, a forty seven foot steel ketch built to a substantial and tough design. With him was Mercy and Fredrik Juell. In July, Mercy and Juell were arrested by the Canadian authorities for illegally entering Canadian territory whilst still pursued by Norwegian Police. Shortly afterwards Andhøy was arrested too for attempting to smuggle Mercy and Juell into Canada. They were all deported by the Canadian government. This Berserk was the infamous Berserk that Sänna came across in the Borneo jungle.

Fast track forward to 2009 and Andhøy again attempted the Northwest Passage, this time without landing on Canadian territory or informing the Canadian Government of his plans. Without their knowledge or assistance Berserk transited clandestinely through tough ice conditions into the Pacific Ocean whilst other vessels were waiting or were hard fast in the ice. Perhaps this is a measure of Andhøy’s vast experience and that of his intrepid crew which now included Skaane and Bellica. Other crew members joined and left at various stages of Berserk’s voyage through the pacific. By now Andhøy was a feted celebrity in Norway and his more intrepid followers paid to join his adventure.

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imageSouth Polar Expedition
The ambition of Andhøy was to get to the South Pole, to emulate Amundsen one hundred years before him. We talked and he was emotionally indignant about Antarctica being strictly controlled, having been carved up by squabbling governments. “You cannot just turn up”, he said, “jump on the ice and wander around”. But, think about it… there are no indigenous tribes living in the frozen south, no cities or populations and no sovereign Government to enact laws. There are no Kings or Queens or Chiefs to parlay or make treaties with. If there were then maybe things would be different… but the historical record of lesser tribal inhabitants coming into contact with more advance civilisations isn’t good. In fact, it’s awful. They’ve invariably been slaughtered by those who plant their flags.

There is nothing in Antarctica except wilderness. And penguins and seals and whales… and, of course, oil.

If your read about the regulations for you, an individual, to visit the Antarctic (you can read the laws here) you will see it’s an exclusive place. Reserved for scientists and researchers who are intrepid explorers too, working on behalf of government and military institutions. They guard it against reckless individuals like Andhøy and the fanciful intentions of you and I. They guard it with permits, regulations and reasons of safety and rescue and keeping you alive… but tourists can visit on regulated cruise ships because it’s profitable for those operators to use your money to do so… but, enough of that.

Andhøy’s bold plan was to sail Berserk south to where he’d already been to before. This was no mad cap speculative adventure. He had two quad bike ATVs, which were crated and stored on Berserk’s overloaded deck with other survival stuff he figured he would need. Andhøy would then attempt to reach the Pole with Massie, one of his crew members along for the ride. Berserk, meanwhile, would wait on anchor in shelter in McMurdo Sound after unloading Andhøy and Massie, the quad bikes and supplies on to the ice and wait for their return. First they would make for New Zealand for final fitting out and to take on last minute stores.

Andhøy’s expulsions from Canada and legal situation in his native Norway was unknown to the New Zealand authorities. He didn’t declare them and, as a result, this rendered him an illegal entrant into New Zealand territory under their immigration laws.

Nevertheless, Berserk left New Zealand refitted and re supplied and, after being caught in two bad storms on route, arrived successfully in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, heading for Back Door Bay, Cape Royds, close to where Ernest Shackleton’s old hut was located.  Stores and supplied were unloaded onto the ice and Andhøy, with Massie, left as planned on the two ATV quad bikes. Then it all started to go wrong…

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Loss of Berserk
Berserk was skippered by Tom Bellica in Andhøy’s absence. Both Bellica and Skaanes were experienced enough to take command of the vessel in my opinion. Whilst at Cape Royds, Berserk contacted the Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNS Wellington by VHF radio and Wellington gave Berserk a severe storm warning for the next day, forecasting winds up to 60 knots.

Massie & AndhoyRCCNZ, the regional rescue co-ordination centre based in New Zealand, picked up a distress signal from Berserk’s Emergency Positioning Beacon (EPIRB) at 1753 in the evening of the 22nd February. Berserk’s last recorded position was eighteen nautical miles north of Scott Base in McMurdo Sound. At 1940, Wellington received notification from RCCNZ of Berserk’s emergency EPIRB signal. Heavy sea and wind conditions with winds above 100 knots prevented Wellington from responding to the distress call immediately. The next day Wellington reached the area in further deteriorating weather conditions and herself suffered severe storm damage. Due to exceptional seas and no sign of Berserk or her crew the search was terminated at 0710 on the 23rd and Wellington returned to the Ross Sea.

The Captain of HMNS Wellington described the storm as the most powerful and violent he’d seen in Antarctica… the Southern Ocean is well known for its deadly storms. You can read about their search here.

Other nearby vessels, Professor Khoromov, a cruise ship, and Steve Irwin, a research ship shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet, were requested to join the search for Berserk and helicopters were deployed by both vessels without success. Efforts to contact the crew on the Berserk through their satellite phone were unsuccessful. Please take time to read Captain Paul Watson’s stunning account of Steve Erwin’s search efforts here.

Meanwhile Andhoy and Massie were making for the pole and, whilst 130 miles from Scott Base in McMurdo Sound, they were contacted on Andhøy’s satellite phone on the 24th by family members in Norway and told of the disaster that had befallen their comrades, and that Berserk, their support vessel, was missing presumed sunk. Andhøy and Massie turned around and returned to Scott Base to assist in the search and rescue efforts.

imageOn the grey, murky morning of the 25th February 2011 Berserk’s damaged life raft was located by Steve Irwin forty five miles north of Berserk’s distress beacon alert. The canopy was torn and it’s first aid kit was missing. An examination revealed no signs of life or that it had been occupied. Evidence indicated it had floated free from Berserk when the vessel had sunk and had not been released manually.

Of course, this story doesn’t end here…

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It took Andhøy and Massie three days to return to Scott Base. Danger now threatened them because the last flight out before winter was scheduled for the 27th February. They barely made it in time, but were flown out to Christchurch, New Zealand on the last U.S. Antarctic C-17 flight of the season, leaving all of their equipment behind at the US base.

Andhøy was held for questioning by the authorities in New Zealand and their investigation concluded that his Berserk ‘Wild Viking’ venture was not adequately prepared, did not have the required permits or permission from the Norwegian authorities, or from the Norwegian Polar Institute under who’s jurisdiction Andhøy would fall. Andhøy confirmed he’d not submitted the required notification of his expedition and did not submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in accordance with Norway’s Regulations for the Protection of the Environment in Antarctica. Andhøy was also advised he’d contravened New Zealand’s Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994.

The immigration authorities also noted Andhøy had entered New Zealand without declaring he had been previously deported from Canadian territories. He was therefore formally deported from New Zealand.

Andhøy and Massie returned to Norway and were arrested by the police. It should be noted they were not held for the loss of the Berserk or for the deaths of Skaane, Bellica and Banks. Andhøy’s breach of the law was for not requesting the required permits, not submitting an Environmental Impact Assessment of his venture, inadequate insurance to provide Search And Rescue (SAR) and not providing sufficient information of his expedition that would have enabled a more detailed rescue operation to be mounted by the US and New Zealand authorities, both of whom had base facilities and naval assets in the region.

The Steve Irwin and Professor Khoromov were privately operated vessels, authorised to be in the area, and both vessels maintained they were conducting their search with insufficient information that would have been available if the correct permits had been issued. You can read the report of Steve Irwin here.

It was decided by the combined government authorities bound by the Antarctic Treaty that an investigation be undertaken with regards to the loss of Berserk, the environmental impact of both Andhøy’s expedition and of Berserk’s sinking, with a report to be submitted to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Buenos Aires scheduled for July 2011.

You can read their full official report here.

Please try and stay with this story… it twists and turns much more.

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New Plans
In November 2011 Jarle Andhøy was fined twenty five thousand Norwegian Kronor for not notifying the Norwegian Polar Institute of his Wild Viking expedition, not filing an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and for not being adequately insured for search and rescue (SAR) deployment. Andhøy accepted the fine without comment and refused to pay. He also announced he would work with NRK television to produce a film documentary about the disaster down in the Ross Sea.

The families of Skaane, Bellica and Banks tried to prevent the documentary being aired by Norwegian television but without success. In fact, the documentary production was critically acclaimed. But, when sought by the media following its broadcast Andhøy was found and identified in…. New Zealand!

A New Voyage South
Andhøy, through a Russian intermediary, had purchased and acquired a fifty four foot steel sailing boat, the Nilaya, from its owner in Auckland, New Zealand, who was unaware that Andhøy was the buyer. Andhøy planned to once again sail for the Ross Sea… and flaunted the fact to the now fascinated New Zealand media and public that he hadn’t declared his previous deportation from Canada. Andhøy was also no doubt aware of his requirements to declare Nilaya’s departure from New Zealand waters… and he had again refused to apply for permits and permission to voyage to the Antarctic. It goes without saying he needed environmental approval from the Norwegian government and the Norwegian Polar Institute to enable an environmental impact assessment of his voyage to be undertaken.

Not surprisingly, the New Zealand authorities moved quickly to arrest Andhøy, his new crew and to impound Nilaya. But they weren’t fast enoughNilaya departed Christchurch hurriedly, so hurriedly in fact that a New Zealand contractor, a Maori engineer repairing Nilaya’s anchor windlass and still onboard, left with them. The authorities notified their own base and the US Scott Base in Antarctica that Andhøy was again heading to the Ross Sea with a kidnapped New Zealand national onboard. In the meantime, it was claimed that Nilaya had been renamed Berserk.

A New Zealand Coast Guard imageaircraft overflew Nilaya, warning Andhøy to reverse course for Christchurch but Nilaya didn’t respond. Meanwhile, Scott Base on the Ross Ice Shelf were warned to expect Andhøy’s arrival and to take action. Read the New Zealand Customs report here.

In fact, and this is important, Scott Base informed the authorities in New Zealand there was nothing they could do to prevent Andhøy returning for his equipment left the previous year as there were no government jurisdictions in Antarctica. Andhøy had done his homework well…

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Reckless Voyage South
Andhøy announced he was returning to the Ross Sea and McMurdo Sound to find his missing friends. He claimed he knew where they might be. Nilaya had no EPIRB distress beacon onboard because, he said, he’d not had time to register one with RCCNZ, or any other SAR authority for that matter. It is a valid point – each unit has to be registered to a vessel and owner although Andhøy later claimed he was not the registered owner or skipper of Nilaya. Registering the device would have alerted the New Zealand authorities that another voyage south was in the planning. Nilaya did have a satphone on board although these are not automatically activated like an EPIRB.

Andhøy said he expected to be in the Ross Sea for about a month. On board Nilaya were Andhøy, Massie, and two other crew members including a mysterious Russian national claiming to be the skipper of Nilaya. Of course, there was also the kidnapped Maori… it later transpired he was Busby Noble, a 150kg heavily tattooed Mana Party (leftist Maori party) activist, who took a Mana flag with him when he was kidnapped… he actually planted it on the shelf ice which Nilaya reached on the 9th of February 2012. Andhøy reported they were planning to stay about a week on the ice before searching for Berserk and then returning to New Zealand, who’s authorities publicly stated would arrest him on arrival.

Let’s break off here to discuss these events. I’ll tell you the rest of what happened a little further in this article… about the arrest of Nilaya in Chile and the conclusion to this extraordinary story.

Who is Andhøy?image
Is Andhøy just a reckless individual or is he a brave explorer trying to find his dead friends..? Is he following history’s radical explorers… Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Peary and many others..?

Almost universally, Andhøy is condemned by credible media news reporting organisations, polar authorities, government departments and those who work professionally on the ice. Numerous bloggers write condemning blogs too, no doubt looking for search engine traffic… but it’s interesting to read the resulting comments which are very polarised (forgive the pun)… not all agree.

There is also a very good and, interestingly, neutral blog originating directly from Antarctica itself, SouthPoleStation, and you can read it here. This site has excellent links detailing the media reaction to the sinking of Berserk and the death of her crew, particularly in New Zealand. Please take time to read it.

Remember… Andhøy’s self declared commitment is freedom to access the wilderness areas… providing you are well prepared and have the skills and ability to survive… something he always stresses. For this the key is experience, skill, unbounding toughness and the willingness to test yourself against the hardest of elements. Few can doubt that Andhøy has these qualities in abundance.

During our discussions in the Borneo jungle, Andhøy said he felt he was amongst friends and, for the first time in a long time, living with fellow men. Most, if not all, of the skippers present were there after battling their own demons and the same venomous oceans that mesmerised Andhøy, Skaane, Bellica and Banks. Some, including myself, have experience of the cold arctic regions and living in frozen environments, and have faced the same storms and dangerous seas desperate for survival. I say this, to a man, we understood Andhøy’s arguments. But, enough of that.

I would like to make one further point… it seems to me that many of those who criticise Andhøy most severely have rarely tested themselves against anything. Nothing like the stuff Andhøy has and I don’t mean this disparagingly. It’s just an observation that’s easy to see.

But, and please think about this, few truly intrepid individuals, like mountaineers, extreme sailors who don’t beg for media recognition, real explorers who are not just travel writers, those who test themselves on snow boards in places they shouldn’t be… they are silent and offer little criticism of Andhøy’s, exploits, lifestyle and beliefs. You know the type.

As Andhøy told me alone one evening… rules, regulations and permits are written by those afraid. I often think about this and, on the whole, I agree. But, enough of that.

Let me tell you about what happened to Nilaya

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Search for Dead Friends
Nilaya explored the coast of Victoria Land and planned to head to Franklin Island before trying to get through the ice to McMurdo Sound… and search for signs of Berserk. Scott Base had been ordered not to give assistance to Andhøy but they should assist the kidnapped New Zealander Busby Noble if he requested help.

During a three week period Andhøy searched numerous areas in McMurdo Sound without finding any trace of Berserk. On the 25th February 2012 Nilaya turned north and Andhøy said their quest was at an end. Because of the hostility to him in New Zealand Andhøy reported they were heading for South America. Andhøy was no novice… of course, he’d been there before.

On the 14th March, Andhøy again made contact saying Nilaya had been damaged in another severe Southern Ocean storm. They were heading for an Argentine base on the Antarctic Peninsula for emergency repairs and fuel. They arrived, made some repairs, fuelled and once again headed north.

Heading for Argentina Nilaya was intercepted in Chilean waters by their navy while en route… they were escorted to Puerto Williams, a small port in Tierra del Fuego across the Straits of Magellan from Ushuaia, Nilaya needed permits to be in Chilean waters but, mysteriously, Nilaya’s name and registration were changed to… Berserk.

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There was, and still is, uncertainty why Nilaya had been intercepted… sources report the vessel and crew had been arrested and Nilaya would be impounded. Other reports, and many of the reports coming out of Puerto Williams were contradictory, stated Nilaya would stay at Puerto Williams until Busby Noble, the kidnapped New Zealander obtained a temporary passport allowing him stay in Chilean territory.

At this point, Noble’s wife publicly stated she believed her radical Maori husband was not coming home and that, maybe, he’d not been kidnapped after all.

On the 10th April, the vessel renamed Berserk was released by the Chilean authorities. Andhøy’s plan was to cross the Straits of Magellan to Ushuaia, Argentina, where Berserk would be left for awhile until further plans were made. Andhøy stated he would be back in Norway by the end of April or early May. After completing repairs in Ushuaia, he and Massie flew to Buenos Aires and to Norway on the 9th May.

Noble returned to his wife and a hero acclaimed Maori welcome in New Zealand.

Andhøy was out of the news for awhile. But in August 2013 he announced he was planning a voyage to continue Thor Heyerdahl’s legacy, using a replica raft made for the 2012 movie Kon Tiki. Thor’s son Bjørn and Busby Noble would accompany Andhøy on the voyage. It never happened. Legal proceedings were ongoing relating to unpaid fines.

In July 2014 it was announced that Andhøy was refusing to pay fines now increased to forty five thousand Norwegian Kronor, imposed on him for violating the environmental provisions of the Antarctic Treaty during his 2011 and 2012 Mad Viking ventures. An appeal to the judgment has been filed but, if still refusing to pay the fine, he will be given a 50-day suspended jail sentence.

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Conclusion
And that’s it. We’re done. But let’s reflect on the legacy of Berserk and the deaths of three tough sailors who followed Andhøy to their doom. Perhaps Amundsen would have smiled a wry smile and patted Andhøy quietly on his back. Afterall, Amundsen deliberately misled the world, and Scott too, when he headed south to the pole. Scott had the support and authorisation from respected and learned institutions… Amundsen had nothing. Skaane, Bellica and Banks died just as did Scott, Oates, Wilson and  Bowers who are feted heroes.

People will soon travel to both the Arctic and Antarctica in their massed thousands, have no doubt of that.

It’s already happening… the big cruise ships are there now. The Professor Khoromov, the vessel that tried to find Berserk, is a private owned cruise ship, there for commercial gain. These huge vessels have the capability to sail any ocean, with their paying passengers who will unquestionably pay to see the frozen wilderness from the comfort of their balconied cabins. The necessary permits and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) will have been completed on their behalf and included in their price… with a markup profit.

The Arctic… the Northwest Passage, and Antarctica will be changed by tourist and commercial impact and not by Jarle Andhøy. Furthermore, the relentless hunt for minerals and oil will continue unabated and grow enormously… driven only by profit. Will the Presidents and Directors of those companies be chased down and pilloried like Andhøy? It’s something I’d like you yourself to think about? But then, are you bothered?

The names of Skaane, Bellica and Banks will be added to the countless names who’ve already died… and then they’ll be forgotten just like others before them. The leaders of those who died live on, Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, Peary, Franklin… and maybe Andhøy, because they are the names we reference the dead by.

We ourselves, Marie and I, have a plan to transit the Northwest Passage from Alaska where we are now. We need to find our way home. But already we are told we’re not welcome in the north, it’s dangerous, we need permits and sky high insurance, we must assess our environmental impact, we cannot be rescued,  our boat isn’t tough enough, we are irresponsible tourists… we must not try. We sail by our own endeavours and make our own way, not in the luxurious comfort of a controlled environment. Maybe we’ll die too but I doubt it… maybe we’ll head south to Mexico instead… it’s cold here in the north and we have choices.

Andhøy said, rightly or wrongly, that Skaane, Bellica and Banks knew the odds and accepted the risk of death. They paid the awful price… but caused their own storm of their own making.

But, enough of that…

Your Thoughts?
Would you mind, for my own purposes, answering the following question? We have to decide if it’s morally acceptable to enter the Arctic. In truth, you’re also answering a deeper question about Andhøy and the environment too. Think about it.

You can also comment.


Dave & Marie Ungless are currently sailing their boat Sänna around the world from west to east. Their nine year voyage so far has taken them into the North Pacific and to Alaska where they are now located. Dave is a freelance writer and journalist writing about their travels and the social aspects of their journey.

You can view their sailing website at www.sanna-uk.com and their sailing blog at www.sailblogs.com/member/eastwards.

You can also Like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sv.sanna.

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12 thoughts on “Who Owns the Wilderness?

  1. sylvia simpson

    People are getting sick & tired of this”Green” Scam. To much has been hidden from us all & at our expense. Explore at your own peril & the best of luck. S.S

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    • I’m not sure where I stand on the ‘green’ issue Sylvia. Environmental Conservation and Protection polarises views enormously and there needs to be something in place to protect the environment from large commercial exploitation. This does work. But in my experience those charged with undertaking the ‘protection’ are no better, they’d like to keep it all to themselves. In most cases they’re very institutionalised and relish the authoritarian powers they’ve been given. Very rarely are they free thinking and dynamic individuals… although usually highly trained in their specialist field. I think I agree with you.

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  2. Environmental impact has to be in meaning closest to the word Bullshit in definition,use and proper implementation in the English language. God forbid someone exercise a measure of freedom or independent thought in this new globalized slave camp that has been fashioned. Go! sail! explore! Andhoy where ever your heart desires. If you believe he is reckless or his methods are unsound stay at home on your couch! Nothing ventured nothing lost or gained!! Modern Navy’s put thousands of ships to sea everyday. You think they file an environmental impact statement??? Well my stomach is rumbling I have to go file an environmental impact statement with my porcelain throne!

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    • Ha ha! Maybe your porcelain report is worth a good read. Beats taking the newspaper in with you. As an aside, we’re a UK registered sailing yacht in U.S. Alaskan waters and we’ve just had to sign an agreement that we accept that any U.S. Warship can open fire on us if we approach within 500 yards of the vessel. Who controls the wilderness eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. David Lovelace

    Kindly drop all the machismo posturing, the brave individual at war with, what, nature? Your “venomous” seas? It seems Andhoy lacks respect for any number of things, most of all the natural world. Seems he just wants to kick its ass and spill some ATV fuel. Three dead believers, one very alive narcisist.

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    • Hmmmm… give yourself a pat on the back and tell yourself you’re a braver man than Andhoy. He’s no saint and doesn’t seek to be one. You’re entitled to your opinion as much as the next man but surely the world’s governments and global commercial Giants have a greater cross to bear than one single man ever did? As for Andhoy’s three dead crew… only their wives and sweethearts can pass judgement on that one?

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  4. Lignator

    Hello I’m writing from good old Nottingham, Sherwood is around the corner. The sea is quite a long way off at the moment but it’s been very warm here (panta rei, all things flow, in the words of the Greek philosopher Heracleitus). The local paper had an article about your decision to go via the nothern route which is how I have found your account of the events above. I think that you must have read “Ice” by Tristan Jones and his time marooned on the ice with his three-legged labrador. No he didn’t eat him! He survived on his version of porridge, so take plenty..

    I really think that people must be able to retain responsibility for themselves. This extends to being able to take their own lives, in extremis,
    if they think their worthwhile lives are over, being quadraplegic or otherwise severely and terminally disabled.

    This is the true anarchist creed: from freedom comes responsibility.
    Here in Britain now we have more laws than ever, and proportionally more disregard for their observance.

    More rules, more selfishness, more irresponsibility. As you say, the polar areas will be destroyed by corporate greed, not individual adventurers in small boats.

    Regarding our Viking sailor, he became a target by his own mythmaking.
    The authorities don’t like heroes, much less those heroes conscious of their own status.

    Bon courage!

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    • It’s a moot point isn’t it? Everyone wants the wilderness to themselves and everyone would like to think they have the right to be there. In my experience, those who criticise the most are those who’ve explored remote parts of the world and are then critical of those who follow. And what would Amundsen thought of today’s cruise ships? The world gets smaller and is accesable to everyone.

      Government control is nothing new, wars have been faught over the rights to territory and it’s never government lives that are lost (not the victorious ones anyway). In my view, our Viking skipper Andhøy has the right to challenge authority he doesn’t see fit but he will always be vilified by those uneasy with his rebel spirit. Governments only like heros who are on the same side?

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  5. Eric and Claudia

    Dave, You are much more than a “travel writer”. I have not followed all the links within the article, however, I will. I voted Mexico for two reasons. One, we will have the possibility of having our paths cross once again. Two, the residents of the Sea of Cortez and the Baja Peninsula are in dire need of people with your abilities to assist them in recovering from Odeile. Three, lol, although we don’t hear about all those sailors that make it through the passage north, the odds in my opinion are much too high, that the ultimate price lurks around every unknown corner. I don’t care to place bets with my life when luck is involved, as you know it is when even the experts don’t predict the weather out more than 5 days or so. Four, it’s too cold to surf up there.

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    • Hi Eric… the Northwest Passage is a controversial route. Nine yachts attempted a transit this year (2014) and only three made it through, the other six turned around (including Jimmy Cornell) or are having to overwinter in the ice. In general they’ve been highly critised for not considering their safety and for their environmental impact. There’s strong feeling, especially from experts in the region.

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  6. Don’t you think it’s a changing world now that everywhere has been explored? All the new lands have been discovered, their indigenous populations subdued and industrialisation completed. Protecting the environment is the new big thing but that’s a head on clash against commercial profit. Guess which one will win? Was Andhøy a victim of these laws for the environment? Or is he just reckless?

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  7. Shirley Cole

    Interesting reading, there are a few free thinking people still, but rules are made for a reason, we can’t all live a life of dropping off the world and it’s complications.

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