'Iceberg'-spotting vessel returns to harbour

The Ntini fishing vessel docked at Mossel Bay on Saturday, nearly a week after its crew reported sighting an iceberg south-east of St Francis Bay, said the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

NSRI Spokesperson Craig Lambinon said that despite rumours to the contrary, no one on board had taken photographs of the iceberg.

The Ntini‘s 20-member crew claimed they saw an iceberg on Monday night, 35 nautical miles south-east of St Francis Bay. It was estimated to be 20m wide and 25m high. There were no other sightings.

Lambinon said reports that the skipper told officials he took pictures of the iceberg were based on a “rumour” he mentioned during an interview with radio station 94.7 Highveld Stereo. The media had reported the information as fact.

“No one ever said he had ever taken pictures. There were no photographs taken,” he said.

Lambinon said he spoke to the captain of the ship himself the day after the sighting. “He didn’t take photos ... The captain has assured me they [had] no photographic equipment on board.”

The Ntini was to have docked on Friday, but the crew instead decided to extend their fishing trip.

Asked whether the crew remained insistent about the sighting, Lambinon said: “They reported what they reported and there is nothing more to say on the matter.”

Earlier in the week, a top South African Weather Service marine researcher said it was highly unlikely that there could be a massive iceberg off St Francis Bay.

Ian Hunter said an iceberg of this magnitude was unlikely. “It’s very unlikely because of the warm Agulhas current off the east coast,” he said. “The history of iceberg climatology in this area also shows that there has never been anything like this in the past.”

Hunter said the South African Sailing Direction, a book published by the hydrographic office under the South African Navy, mentions that there were a few iceberg sightings in the 1850s near Cape Town.

He said there was a report from a ship in 2002 off the Cape west coast of a piece of ice, with about a metre of it sticking above the water. “We refer to this as a ‘growler’ because it is very small. Bearing in mind the cold Cape Town water, this was, to an extent, acceptable,” he said.

However, the chances of an iceberg of this magnitude to arrive off St Francis Bay were slim.—Sapa



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