Tragedy of family who disappeared at sea is still a mystery, 9 years later – 10/22/2022

“This year, the Tasman Sea is shooting up storms like a machine gun. There is no doubt that we will be victims of some of them”, wrote, in his notebook, a kind of diary that he always carried on his voyages, the American captain David Dyche. III, when he was flying back from Brazil, where he worked in three-month shifts aboard ships, providing services for oil platforms, to New Zealand, where he would find his wife and son again to continue the long journey around the world that were making, aboard the family boat: a large and ancient schooner, called Niña.

Dyche didn’t know. But days later, his prediction would turn into a premonition. And his prophecy would come true in the worst possible way.

What, however, Dyche, an experienced 58-year-old captain, 25 of them in command of vessels, knew all too well was that his departure for that leg of the voyage, between Opua, New Zealand, and Newcastle, Australia, was delayed. , and that both the calendar and the meteorology clearly showed that the annual storm season in the Tasman Sea had already begun.

But that delay had been a necessity: the boat’s engine had failed months before, and the journey, scheduled to take place in February 2013, had to be postponed to the end of May, in order to wait for parts to arrive for the repair, and also the end of Dyche’s new period of work in Brazil.

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

He also knew that this crossing would be hard and “scrambled”, as he noted in his notebook. But not even remotely would he have imagined what was to come.

‘It will be incredible’

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

In Opua, Dyche was reunited with his family – his wife Rosemary, 60, his son David, 17 – as well as four friends, who would also be part of the crew: Evi Nemeth, a 73-year-old retired American university professor. , Kyle Jackson, 27, young Danielle Wright, 18, the daughter of a couple of old friends, who wanted to enjoy the school holidays living an “adventure on the seas”, and Matthew Wootton, 35-year-old English politician and environmentalist, member of the British Green Party, who, on the eve of the match, posted on his social networks another message that would become almost prophetic: “It’s going to be amazing”, he wrote.

But it was far more terrifying than that.

Boat was 85 years old

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

The schooner Niña was an old and almost legendary sailing boat. With a wooden hull over 20 meters long, elegant lines and a huge mast, it had been built 85 years earlier, in 1928, to compete in the Copa del Rey, a transoceanic regatta between the United States and Spain, a competition it won. with extreme ease.

Later, it maintained its reputation as a great boat, winning, also that year, in Europe, the most famous regatta in England, the Fastnet, becoming the first American sailboat to take the coveted trophy to America.

The success in competitions led the schooner to be bought by the commodore of the then most famous yacht club in the United States, New York. There, she gained the status of “flagship”, or “main vessel of the club” – a kind of symbol boat of the entity.

Until, over the years, Niña was sold from one owner to another, until it fell into the hands of Dyche, a lover of classic boats. And he decided that he would go around the world with that schooner, doing each stretch between work, and taking with his family and, whenever he could, also some friends.

That’s what Dyche did, on that May 29, 2013, when he left New Zealand, for another leg of the trip.

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

The last of the lives of those seven occupants of the schooner Niña.

Trip started well. But…

The crossing, of about 1,500 nautical miles (more than 2,700 kilometers) was expected to last around 10 days, “depending on weather conditions”, as Dyche warned, when leaving the port of Opua, where the schooner had been stopped for months. , waiting for the engine to be repaired. But it started well.

In spite of bad weather forecasts, in the first days, the group advanced without major problems, and its location at sea was passed from time to time to friends on land, who followed the old schooner’s journey from a distance – which, for that reason, it was somewhat precarious in terms of navigation and communication resources.

Ask a meteorologist for help

The octogenarian Niña only had a limited-range VHF radio, a satellite phone, a manual distress call device for emergency situations, and a portable tracker, which was also not automatic and had to be manually activated in order to provide the location of the boat.

Daily, the crew member in charge of communications, the American professor Evi Nemeth, checked the position of the boat on the hand tracker, and, via satellite phone, asked the New Zealand meteorologist Bob McDavitt, also a friend of the Dyches, for instructions on the best course to take, in order to dribble the storms that prowled on all sides.

But on June 3, six days after they set sail, when they were about 600 kilometers off the New Zealand coast (but still more than 2,000 kilometers from Australia), there was no escape – and they were caught in one of those storms, with gusts of wind that exceeded 120 km/h, and waves over seven meters high.

Evi then took the satellite device and called the meteorologist McDavitt once more, who advised them to veer south, “until the winds subside a little”, which, however – he warned – “could take some time”.

“Be prepared for difficult times”, warned the meteorologist.

It was one of the premonitions about the tragic fate that awaited the crew of that schooner.

last contact

That same night, McDavitt received another call from Evi, informing him that even the schooner’s storm sails, much smaller than usual, had torn from the furious gusts of wind, and that they were now “impaired, just through the engine”.

The meteorologist regretted the fact and asked them to keep in touch. Evi replied that she would call back the next day. It was the last news of the schooner Niña and its seven crew members.

They all disappeared into the sea, somewhere in the stormy Tasman Sea.

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

And never knew where or why?

where to look for them?

What happened after that last phone call, only the unfortunate occupants of the schooner Niña could say. But there was no one left to clarify.

It is certain that, whatever happened (flooding of the boat, destruction of the hull, capsizing…), it happened in a fulminating way. So fast that there was no time to call for help, nor to manually activate the boat’s tracker and emergency device.

With that, even after it became clear to the meteorologist McDavitt that something very serious had happened with the Dyche boat (since they did not call again on the 4th, as they said they would, nor did they respond to the numerous calls he made after Besides that), it was impossible to know exactly where to look for the schooner – not least because no debris, remains, equipment or traces were found floating in the sea in the region, in the following days.

Searches in the wrong place

The situation would get even more dramatic later, when McDavitt called the New Zealand Navy, asking for searches in the region, and was answered with a disconcerting “no!”.

Alleging that Captain Dyche’s vessel “had the resources to ask for help” (without taking into account the precariousness of the almost century-old schooner’s equipment), and that “if they were not activated, not even the meteorologist had received a distress call in that last call “, it was because “there was no emergency situation”, the entity took an absurd ten days to start acting.

Only when the boat’s disappearance became inexplicable did the New Zealand Navy decide to look for the Dyche.

Apparently in the wrong place.

Ignored the weatherman

Instead of taking into account the suggestion given by the meteorologist (and, apparently, accepted by Captain David), that the schooner should head south, the New Zealand sea rescue service chose to center the search in the region where the operator Liv had reported that the boat was in when she’d last made a phone call to McDavitt.

As a result, they began to look for traces—or, at best, surviving castaways—in the area where the boat had been, not where it could have gone, after the meteorologist’s advice, although that made more sense.

20 days later they gave up

Only after days of fruitless searches did the New Zealanders decide to expand the area searched, each time encompassing the Tasman Sea, by then already ravaged by so many other storms, that they themselves could have taken it upon themselves to make any trace of the schooner disappear once and for all. left on the surface.

Until, on July 5th, more than 20 days after the search began, and after searching an area of ​​more than 1.3 million square kilometers of sea – one of the largest operations of its kind in the history of Oceania – , the search for the seven occupants of the schooner Niña was closed. And the tragedy, made official.

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

No body was ever found.

mystery message

To this day, however, one detail fuels the anguish and disbelief of the victims’ relatives and friends in that controversial rescue operation.

On the eve of the end of the search, an enigmatic message, sent by the schooner in the early afternoon of the 4th, but which never reached its addressee, was delivered by the company Iridium, operator of the satellite phone that was on the Dyche boat, to the New Zealand Maritime Operations Control Center.

What it said was never known, as the agency never disclosed its content, not even to whom it was intended – although the most obvious was meteorologist McDavitt.

Tributes until today

Most likely, that censored message only proved that Captain Dyche had heeded the meteorologist’s advice and diverted the schooner’s course to the south, which would have made the agency’s failure evident in carrying out the first searches in the wrong area – which is why the content of the message was never disclosed.

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Image: Facebook/Reproduction

To this day, relatives and friends maintain a Facebook page in honor of the seven victims of the disappearance of the schooner Niña nine years ago, which became one of the greatest enigmas of the often turbulent Tasman Sea, especially during its stormy season. winter – as, incidentally, had predicted Captain David Dyche III, in that premonitory note of his, on the way to the last crossing he would make.

Another far more bizarre case

It was in that same region, and also on the same date (June 4, only 19 years earlier, in 1994), that one of the most bizarre cases in nautical history took place: that of a couple of esoteric sailors, the Americans Darryl and Diviana Wheeler. , which, instead of dodging what was considered one of the worst storms of the century in the Tasman Sea, did just the opposite and advanced towards it, for an even more bizarre reason: to find a flying saucer, which would take them to another dimension — click here to know this other story, which despite being absurd actually happened.

And that, unlike the case of the Dyche, did not end in tragedy.

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