The search for the sailboat Berserk and its three crew in the Southern Ocean was formally suspended after a weeklong international search-and-rescue operation found no trace of the men or the vessel.
Maritime New Zealand Safety Services general manager Nigel Clifford said the major search effort had comprehensively covered all areas where the vessel or its crew could reasonably have been expected to be found.
"Sadly, given the absence of any further sign of the vessel or the crew, combined with the recent extreme weather conditions and near-freezing temperatures currently experienced in the Ross Sea, it has gone beyond the point where we could reasonably expect anyone to be found alive," Clifford said.
Meanwhile, the yacht's Norwegian skipper, who survived the incident, is defending the ill-fated journey.
Bedraggled and showing signs of facial frost bite, controversial Scandinavian adventurer Jarle Andhoy and his 18-year-old companion Samuel Massie spoke of their ordeal after being airlifted from Antarctica to Christchurch by a United States Operation Deep Freeze flight.
While the pair managed to trek non-stop for a week to the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound, the three other members of the Wild Viking expedition are believed to have perished in the Southern Ocean after their 46-foot steel vessel Berserk disappeared a week ago.
"I think we did everything as good as we could," Andhoy said. "We prepared 110 percent. The place where this incident happened was a very easy-going place to sail, it's near a sound, near land, safe anchorage ..."