South Korean Trawler Sinks Suddenly; Rescue Mission Slows

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The South Korean ship sank approximately 1250 miles south of New Zealand's coast. Image via Google Maps.

A South Korean ship, the In Sung No. 1, sank swiftly and without warning to the bottom of glacial waters off Antarctica on Monday, leaving five crewmembers dead and another seventeen unaccounted for. It’s highly unlikely that those still missing would have survived the cold.

The 190-foot, long-line trawler went down 1,250 miles outside of New Zealand and, according to reports from the scene, so quickly that crewmen had no time to prepare themselves. Twenty of the forty-two onboard were rescued by a nearby South Korean fishing boat and three other such vessels continue to troll the icy sea for sailors. At the time of the sinking, all boats in the area were asked to head to the site to pitch in.

(Read about a South Korean naval ship that sunk in March.)

But the search has since been scaled back—two New Zealand vessels called off their hunt Monday afternoon—due to the improbability of survival. Plans to call on aircrafts from the New Zealand Air Force and McMurdo Station science and research center were deemed unviable and abandoned. According to a statement by the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand, without lifejackets or immersion suits, survival time in the 36-degree water is a mere ten minutes.

(Read “Tension in the Koreas: That Sinking Feeling.”)

The cause of the sinking is not yet known. The In Sung No. 1 did not issue a distress call and apparently, waves were calm and winds light. Aboard the ill-fated boat, which was based in Pusan and plied the remote seas seeking deepwater fish, were Chinese, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Filipinos and a single Russian. Hopeful family members have gathered at the offices of the Seoul-based Insung Corporation, owner of the sunken ship, to wait for news of their loved ones. (via BBC.)