Mystery yacht hauled up off Australia

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 12:05 31/03/2014

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A sunken yacht with a New Zealand-made mast has been dragged out of the Timor Sea northwest of Australia, but there is no sign of the crew.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said a fishing boat hauled up part of the yacht last week.

A mollusc expert believes it has been in the ocean for eight to 10 months.

Police divers are to go down to the wreck to check for human remains.

The mystery yacht was discovered by a ship owned by Australia Bay Seafoods in about 90 metres of water.

Bill Passey, co-owner of the company, said the crew of the ship realised their nets had a giant snag last week while trawling about 170 kilometres from Darwin.

"They hooked up there and it took about six hours to get off and eventually when they did get off something gave way," Passey told the ABC.

"They pulled up ... and amongst all the tangled mess was a sail and a mast off a yacht."

The ABC said the yacht had a sail from a boutique Sydney sailmaker. Stainless steel rings on the blue mast that was recovered were made in Auckland.

Several Auckland firms specialise in mast manufacture for yachts.

Senior Constable Wade Rogers, of the Northern Territory water police, said the possibility of fatalities was an obvious concern.

"We have obviously checked our databases," Rogers said.

"From what we can establish there is no outstanding persons that haven't been located in Australian waters."

The finding of the yacht has sparked interest for the families of people who went missing aboard the American yacht, Nina. It disappeared in the Tasman Sea with seven people aboard in June last year.

No sign of it has been found.

However, the 85-year-old ketch had two large and heavy wooden masts that were not made in New Zealand.

The yacht discovered in the Timor Sea is about 5300km from the last known position of Nina.

The Timor and Arafua Seas are infamous for shipwrecks.

In 1951 the old Lyttelton to Wellington ferry, Wahine, ran aground in the area as it was taking New Zealand forces to the Korea War.

The ship was never salvaged and its wreck remains visible.

No-one was killed in the grounding.

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- Fairfax Media

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