Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Expert says image may be the Nina

The new satellite image.
The new satellite image.

A meteorologist says it is possible new satellite images showing what looks like a boat in the Tasman Sea could be the missing ship Nina.

Auckland-based meteorologist Bob McDavitt said it could not be ruled out that the images - captured on September 15 near Norfolk Island - was the Nina.

But New Zealand's search and rescue agency has continued to rule out resuming the search until a better image emerged.

Mr McDavitt said: "You don't want to take away people's hopes ... [However] there's about a vessel a day or every other day going past that part of the world. It's not impossible."

The classic American schooner Nina.
The classic American schooner Nina.

He was the last person to make contact with the Nina crew in early June, when a text message was sent asking for an update on nasty weather. He said he thought about the crew often and was sad for the families. "We still don't know what's happened - no one does. It's just sad."

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand said it has remained in close contact with the families of the seven crew.

Maritime NZ general manager of safety and response services Nigel Clifford said they had been feeding the families direct information from the operations room.

"All the staff at RCCNZ have tremendous sympathy for the extremely difficult situation family members are going through," he said. It was revealed yesterday the organisation had been given two images of a boat drifting west of Norfolk Island, captured by satellite on September 15.

But the RCCNZ asked for a more detailed image - to determine whether or not the vessel is the Nina - in order for a new search to resume.

Ricky Wright, father of crew member 19-year-old Danielle Wright, said New Zealand authorities had been more helpful than those in the United States. "We have been asking the USA Department of State for help in getting better images and any other help - including tasking airplanes - since day one of this nightmare. Yes, we have been asking ... specifically for better resolution of the September 15 image, but we get no help."

Mr Wright said experts from the Texas EquuSearch team - a private search and rescue organisation - had volunteered their time to help. He said the families were staying positive and reiterated that no evidence had been found that the boat had sunk.

Ghost yacht

* The Nina, with a crew of seven, set sail from the Bay of Islands on May 29.
* It was due in Sydney within 40 days.
* The last contact was a text message sent from the boat in early June.
* On Monday new satellite images were released showing what families hope could be the Nina.

- NZ Herald

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