Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Found Sailboat In Australia Not Likely Schooner Nina

There has been a lot of hype about a mast caught in a fishing rig in the Timor Sea being from the missing schooner, Nina that disappeared on the Eastern coast of Australia in the Tasman Sea.  Part of that hype is a well written story from the Herald Sun News, Northern Territories, a publication with a sterling reputation, which does nothing more than sensationalize the remotest of possibilities the sunken yacht found in the Timor Sea is the Nina.  If the author had been doing her homework, she would have printed a more accurate headline, "Timor Sea Find Not Likely Nina".

"Not really, we are just trying to sell papers"

Sensationalist stories have hurt the Nina search before.  One of the most famous stories suggested the Nina was in horrible condition.  The authority upon whom the writer relied had never been aboard the Nina.  In fact, the authority for the story is not a shipwright, hence not in a position to make official statements about what condition the Nina is in.  Few people know, a survey was completed in 2012 in which the Nina was found to be "a sound yacht".  That story has never been made public.

The story in the Herald Sun, Northern Territories, also speaks about how massive the search for the Nina was.  If you repeat something enough times people begin to believe it.  While the search for the Nina was large, the families say there were massive errors in the search, another fact not well reported.  There is a significant likelihood the search missed the Nina and her crew because of those errors.  

The families ask all people to keep a sharp eye out for a boat lying low in the water, as well as wrecks on remote islands and reefs, debris and flotsam.  At one time that request was for boats in the Northern Tasman Sea.  Considering the currents and passage of time, the Nina could be about anywhere.

Whangarei Harbor

Authorities have been closed mouthed about the details of the mast found in the Timor Sea.  The information I have I am not at liberty to disclose at this time.  Suffice it to say, the mast found was very distinct and does not sound like it came from the missing schooner, the Nina, according to sources.  Is it possible the Nina crew found a floating wreck and salvaged a mast?  Sure, but not very likely.

We encourage the Herald Sun News, Northern Territories, and all publications to focus on things that have the potential to help the missing crew and their families.  The families have their hands full doing what authorities from many countries should have done.  Putting out sensationalist fires makes their efforts more difficult.  The truth may be just as sensational, but it is going to take someone with a lot of moxy to bring it forth.

Anything, of course, is possible.  Until divers can check the ocean floor to verify there is, in fact, a boat, and the mast was not simply blown overboard and snagged on the bottom, no one can say for sure what authorities will find.  However, speculation the found mast is the Nina is likely sensationalist journalism to sell papers and does an unjust service to the Nina sailors and their families.


  1. The various journalists involved in the reporting of the mystery Western Australian mast can't even agree on what type of masts Nina had - aluminium or heavy timber! This basic fact should be easily verifiable and illustrates the ill informed and lazy journalism that has dogged the Nina story from day one!!

    1. Thanks for your comment. The families say they are quite approachable for these kinds of details. Ricky and Robin Wright, Ian and Sue Wootton, Executive Search Coordinator Ralph Baird, Coordinator Larry Slack and others are very happy to answer questions about the Nina. They can also put media in touch with other family members and volunteers who have intimate knowledge of the various aspects of the Nina and the search. There was discussion on the phone call today about how much the families appreciate the role the media plays. However, it is important to get the details right and not sensationalize negative findings.

  2. Its always a matter of editorial discretion between the rush to print and the desire to get the facts straight first. When it came to the "motoring NW under bare poles" message, I found it was the NZ media who were most careful in authenticating the reports prior to disseminating them.

    1. In this case, it was a rush to sell papers that appears to be the motivation.


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