SV Berserk & Crew

It is with great disappointment that the search for famed sailing vessel SV Berserk has officially been called off, as of March 1st, 10pm, by Maritime NZ.

Captained by Jarle Andhøy, skipper of multiple wild voyages in polar regions, Berserk went missing while Andhøy and Samuel Massie were attempting to reach the south pole on ATV’s, leaving a crew of three onboard in their absence. During Andhøy & Massie’s expedition south, the Berserk beacon was briefly detected, before going dark… The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, HMNZS Wellington, and Professor Khromov, all spent a combined total of 141 hours searching for the stricken vessel, covering 25,600km2 of water, and finding nothing but an empty liferaft and no further communications from Berserk.

The voyages of the Berserk are legendary… And worthy of remembering as part of the greatest expeditions in sailing history upon small boats. Unfortunately the Sunday Star Times (NZ) wrote the voyage off as a “foolhardy voyage to Antarctica by a group of self-proclaimed Vikings… Which has cost three lives while forcing a New Zealand navy ship and 55 of its crew into savage seas, damaging the new vessel”…

With two ATVs perilously strapped to the deck of the relatively small 48ft steel vessel, Berserk went deep south into Antarctica against Norwegian Polar Institute guidelines, which ‘prohibited’ them from going beyond 60 degrees south. Captain Jarle Andhøy retorted with “we don’t need permission to sail down there.” … And continued the expedition to mark the centenary of Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition, successfully making the pole as planned.

While critics claim the Norwegians were foolhardy, unprepared, and breaking numerous Antarctic treaties to ride motorcycles to the south pole… I can’t help but feel the clamour of boredom, bureaucracy and armchair criticism over all of this as anything but noise and tiresome commentary. While the disappearance of the Berserk, Robert Skaane, Tom Gisle Bellika, and Leonard Banks is saddening, and most of all, awful for their families, Jarle Andhøy and his merry pirates are a bastion of light in a world full of tedious and heavily sponsored expeditioning, ’cause’ adventures, and everything else that comes along with it… These guys were the real deal, and I think every one of us feels a tinge of envy when we see their lives of madness and freedom – They took a risk, and very unfortunately things went wrong, while experiencing the most inhospitable, beautiful, remote and dangerous place in the world… I believe their ‘failure’ is nothing short of exemplary, courageous, and full of imagination and wonder.

While the official search has been called off, I must admit to still feeling a glimmer of hope in their reappearance… So many things can happen at sea…

‎”When compared to alternatives, what sadness is found in a life truly lived? Hide all ye bastards struck down by fear of living that death has found ye still alive, lest you spoil the goodness in others that is the courage required to whet the appetite of dreams with reality.” -Anon (Care of Bobby).



  1. David

    Well said Nick.

    I was disgusted by that Sunday Start Times article…

    Much respect for Jarle and crew. I think it’s a shame he’ll be blamed for this when nobody will every really know what happened. Jarle has big ambitions and it takes a certain type of fellow to follow him on these adventures. But he’s been around this planet enough to prove that he’s a competent and responsible skipper and captain, even in the harshest of climates and situations. If the Berserk is never found, nobody will ever know what the cause of the accident was, but I think it’s fair to say it wasn’t anybodies fault.

    • David

      That should read “Sunday Star Times”, sorry.

  2. It’s the nature of risk. Keep playing long enough, and the house always wins. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play, or the risks aren’t worth taking. Frankly, it seems most of the world has lost it’s appetite for adventure, which is a shame. But, what is worse is the insistence by those who are afraid to play that no one else should play either.

    Regards the always cited costs and risks of rescue operations I have a couple thoughts. One, is the people taking the risks of performing the rescues have chosen their careers. My guess is most of them WANT to be in the action. Two, while any rescue operation is expensive, what is the value of human spirit? Is that spirit to be crushed by mere fiscal numbers? Should we never push the envelope? Should we stop trying to be great? Three, if a nation is willing to value their treasure over their humanity, that is their choice. Attempt a rescue, or don’t attempt a rescue; but stop bitching about it. If it is the fate of the poor adventurers to be left to their own devices because countries are no longer willing to help, then that is the chance they take.

    In the end, no matter if you sail the most inhospitable regions of the world, or lock yourself in your bathroom your entire life, the house always wins. You might as well play.

  3. Lee Winters

    Going to re-post this verbatim on my site Nick. Couldn’t agree more.

  4. stuart

    Totally agree Nick. Terrible news, and I think some people feel safer if they can lay the blame on those involved. It would be a pretty dull world if we didn’t have people willing to take risks, purely in the name of ‘adventure’.

  5. Pingback: SV Berserk loss, commented by Nick Jaffe AUS | Windpilot Blog

  6. Ferroever

    As always, a beautifully written and moving piece. Forever your fan and underling. M

  7. Trustn_me

    I just saw this on whale wars, my heart is filled with love and prayers for the men who lost their lives doing what they loved and enjoyed.

  8. Schoolerss

    I am usually among those who wonder why people act in a manner that risks rescue personnel lives, but I am quite unhappy to read such cold accusations, “blaming the victims” on-line, while men are missing at sea.  What I saw was the crew of the Steve Irwin head into conditions described as the worst storm seen in the navy rescuer’s career, to answer a distress call.  A ship that was nearby to actively protest the Japanese commercial whaling fleet, deserted that quest when human lives were at risk.  After they found a lifeboat, which it turned out was from the Navy vessel, they continued to devote their resources long after those responsible for rescue had abandoned the effort.  The crew of the Steve Irwin and their helicopter kept up the search until they received confirmation that did at last find a lifeboat from the stricken ship, and they were instructed that the search should then be abandoned.  Way to go Sea Shepard!!!!!  You truly have the right priorities.  Keep up the good fight.  If I could, I would be there with them or spray painting baby seals.  They are protecting us by protecting the sea life.

    • Schoolerss

      I forgot to include my sympathy to the loved ones of the 3 men who lost their lives.  God bless you through this time and your loss to the sea.

  9. Pithy-comments

    What utter bullshit…the fact of the matter is that numerous other ship captains told this guy about the upcoming storm and that what he was doing was fool-hardy. It was a terrible decision by a gung-ho captain to go ahead with the mission.

    And the fact remains that while financial underpinnings are not what should be top priority when embarking on an adventure, this captain just cost the tax layers of New Zealand a Ron of money. Buy insurance…it’s that simple. If everyone where to just follow their “hearts” and did what pleased them, this world would be in utter anarchy.

  10. Joshenoho

    I would genuinely appreciate it if someone who personally knows the people, tell us if there has been any recent news about the voyage. Or is it still all unknown….

  11. Monola

    Leave out the macho crap, Jarle.
    You didn´t prepare your 110%. Very likely you knew that:
    vessel not suitable > no insurance > no permit
    So you just left out the formal work with the Polar Institute that you now blame for not being helpful, just because their report pointed out the mistakes you guys made.
    Of course you where all “real men” and not modern girly pussies, you all did volunteer, so fine with me if you want the ols style riskiness. Just don´t play victim now.
    You´re no victim, you´re respnsible. The only vuctims are the relatives who had to wave a bunch of daring risktakers goodbye and who will not even bury their loved ones.
    No excuses Jarle, don´t blame it on authorities or those that warned you. Stop excusing. With all your “real man” talk, say it loud: The warnings where true, the risk was there and we chose to take it. Some came home, some will not.
    Because that is the exact spirit of manlyness from the days of Amundsen and Scott. Not “poor me, I lost my men but still I was right and the warners are girlies”.

  12. Evan Gunthner

    Jarle did no more wrong than any other man on that trip. Each knew the risks, and each still wanted in. It’s rediculous to think that they will place the blame on one man…. but, I guess that’s how the world works these days… everybodys gotta blame somebody else. I’m gonna guess these “permits” cost a pretty penny too, since it’s the MONEY the goverments want… they don’t care who lives or who dies and if they did war wouldn’t exist. You need permission to do ANYTHING these days because men aren’t men anymore… they just want money to buy more things… in my country they call people like that “women.” 😉

    • Ok, so Evan thinks bad characteristics are typical for women, and valuable chracteristics are typical for men.

      I think: you shouldn´t talk down to half the worlds population.

      And by the way, the most greedy, materialistic, and boasting consumer-junkies I know are men. Don´t blame women for that. Just don´t, it makes you look like a pus.

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