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Whale watching leads to sinking off Hawaii

Jan 1, 2003

On July 25, Mureadritta XL, a 40-foot Joubert/Nivelt sloop, was 415 miles north of Hawaii, when the crew spotted a pod of sperm whales. The boat was on a passage from Hawaii to San Francisco, after having recently competed in the Pacific Cup Race. The crew decided to sail over and get a closer look at the whales when one of the animals began battering the vessel's port side with its head. The carbon fiber hull was catastrophically damaged in the attack. Captain Nick Barran reported to the U.S. Coast Guard that they were unable to stem the flow of water and had launched a life raft. They also tripped their 406 EPIRB, an ACR Electronics RapidFix. According to Barran, the crew's time in the raft went smoothly. "We had an Iridium satphone with us and if I had remembered the data cable I could have sent e-mails from the life raft - maybe even set up a quick Web site."

The Coast Guard deployed a C-130 fixed-wing airplane and by 10:55 local time, after the vessel had sunk, the raft was spotted. The container vessel Maersk Darwin, transiting the Pacific on its way to China, was some 90 miles away. Darwin diverted and picked the crew up later in the day, according to Coast Guard reports. The crew was ultimately transferred to a Hawaii-bound fishing vessel, according to ACR Electronics.

"It was a textbook coordination by the Coast Guard. It doesn't get any better than this," Barran said. "We were 415 miles away and ended up back on land in Honolulu within three days - amazing!


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