Update on NZ RCC meeting today
Dear all--family of those onboard, our key sailor friends, and US Consul in Auckland
Laszlo and I met with NZ RCC for about three hours today and got a very full briefing of everything they have done over the past weeks. I will try to summarize everything we learned. This email
is only going to you as family of those onboard, tomorrow we will send it to concerned friends as well. Feel free to distribute as you see fit.
First, we were met at the airport
by the operations manager of NZ RCC, John Seward. He drove us out to headquarters and gave us background on the coordination center and the people working there, they seem like an extremely experienced team, all of them with years of experience before they even come to RCC. We then met with Dave Wilson who has been doing a lot of work on our case and he spent 3 hours going over everything, starting with the first day and all the possible scenarios they have considered and why they have searched where they have.
Included in this email
as an attachment is the active aerial chart of where they have looked so far. The red circle is the area in which they have sent out constant radio
broadcasts alerting vessels of Nina, each large vessel gets this every day and must physically press a button for the alarm
to stop--meaning they will read the alert about Nina at least everyday.
Following is the explanation of the different colors which correspond to different days. The large swaths are radar
searches and the smaller ones are visual searches (all aerial).
On the first day of air search 25 June (NZ time) they searched the large, somewhat slender swath between NZ and the Cook Islands
in the lighter blue green color using a P3 Orion, they searched this area because there was already a plane returning from there. The P3 Orion is a military grade plane with the best radar detection currently available, as well as other sensors they don't know about and can't tell us anyway due to military regulations
(NZ RCC searches are often conducted by the military). At this time they were looking for Nina. They have the capability to tell the radar to look for a vessel of Nina's size. They also were sending out VHF
communication with vessels in the area as they flew back towards NZ. Upon finishing this, they also searched the large green square area to the north of NZ, again looking for Nina and contacting any vessels via VHF
if need be. If Nina was disabled, the thought was that they may have drifted eastwards from last positions given. The last positions given are the yellow pushpin markers, the one to the far east is the iridium
location (assumed from the satellite phone
on 4 June), the middle one is the spot beacon message Evi sent out on the 2nd of June and the most westerly one is the position Evi gave via text message on the sat phone
to Bob McDavitt (weather guy) on 4 June. Looking at all data, they were using the spot message and iridium
as the last positions for the initial searches because their information about iridium phones was that they are correct within 10 miles and thus assumed Evi may have given a faulty position for a variety of reasons (may have read it wrong under duress, unsure what instruments they had onboard for reading correct position etc). This past Saturday, 29 June, they learned iridium is 10 miles plus or minus correct on land, but can be vastly off over water. Given this info they have recently changed the search area, more on that in a bit.
On 26 June, they were still looking for the vessel and not a life raft, they conducted the large search to the west, in brown, that goes from NZ to Aus., again using the P3 Orion to search. This covered all areas that a disabled vessel would be in--this info was derived using complicated drift models looking at both wind
pattern and ocean currents over the past however many days since 4 June. If the vessel was disabled but still mobile, it may have gone beyond the search area.
There were several other vessels that left Opua at the same time as Nina headed to Australia, NZ RCC has been in contact with Australian authorities and customs
to see which vessels arrived safely and to determine what conditions they encountered, we are still waiting to hear back from Aus.
27 June weather interfered with continued search efforts.
28 June is the hot pink area on the north of the North Island, at 90 mile beach if you know that area. At this time, due to the fact that they found no vessel in the 25 and 26 June searches, they started looking for life raft or vessel debris.
29 June they searched using a fixed wing aircraft and helicopter along the west shore of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Plymouth (South of Auckland), a similar search to the day before.
This led to 30 June search of the small bright, light green rectangle in the lower half of the large green square. At this time they conducted a visual air search, not using the radar, so they could detect possible life raft. The area covered is significantly smaller because they have to fly lower and go slower and use eyes instead of computers
1 July is the darker green small rectangle just above the previous day's, same search criteria using drift modeling for life raft dating from 4 June positions.
The search today, 2 July, has shifted west due to the new information they received about Iridium's lack of accuracy over open water. You can see this area as the dark red rectangle just south of Norfolk Island.
Tomorrow and most likely Thursday they will not be able to continue aerial searches due to weather.
We inquired with NZ RCC about what, if anything Australian RCC could bring to the table. We learned that Australian RCC has been privy to the search and independently created their own search patterns using drift modeling (they have the same technology as NZ). The two are almost exactly the same, which means Australia would have conducted the same searches.
Please send us any questions by 10 am NZ time as that is when we plan to meet with them again.
The hospitality and sharing of information provided by NZ RCC has been above and beyond our expectations, we are very thankful for their tremendous work thus far.
Libby (Evi's niece) and Laszlo