Two bodies have been recovered off the southern coast of Otago this morning.

While formal identification has not yet taken place, it is believed that the bodies are those of the two Balclutha men reported overdue from their diving trip on Saturday night.

MetService records showed air temperatures varying between 8degC and 13degC, and seas temperatures steady at 12degC.

A police spokesman said their thoughts were with the families of the pair.

Advertisement

Police also thanked the people, including volunteers, who were involved in the search.

The men, who were snorkelling for paua on shallow reefs to the south of Purakaunui Bay, about 17km from Owaka, were aged 23 and 51 and were not related.

The two South Otago paua divers failed to return on Saturday night from a trip to the Catlins.

Police and land and water Search and Rescue teams launched a major search operation after the pair - friends from Balclutha - were reported overdue about 7.30pm Saturday.

A police spokeswoman said the search for the missing pair resumed at first light this morning.

The police national dive squad was helping with the search as well as a plane and a shoreline search team.

The father and two sisters of one of the men, who did not wish to be named yesterday, waited patiently in the rain at the bay for news at lunchtime yesterday.

Members of the Otago Surf Life Saving SAR team, of Dunedin, end their day's search for two missing divers at Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins about 3.30pm yesterday.
Members of the Otago Surf Life Saving SAR team, of Dunedin, end their day's search for two missing divers at Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins about 3.30pm yesterday.

In breezeless, cool conditions, interspersed with heavy showers, they watched as Otago Surf Life Saving SAR crews scoured the rocky coastline.

Advertisement

The father said he had not lost hope for his son's return.
"It's a pretty bad situation, but we're just hoping for some good news from the police.''

He said the family had begun to become concerned when the divers failed to return at their allotted time of 5pm the previous day.

The pair had been diving using snorkels, not far offshore and at a familiar spot, he said.

"We can't understand what's happened.''

Search co-ordinator Senior Constable Murray Hewitson, of Owaka, said although the length of time the men had been missing was a concern, the search team remained positive.

"With sea temperatures in the area, the longer it's going on the more worried we are. But we hope we'll still find them curled up somewhere, and that's the attitude we'll take into tomorrow.''

Making the disappearance "unusual'' were otherwise "ideal'' weather and sea conditions during the time the men had been in the water.

"Visibility has been good, and the coastal waters relatively calm.''

MetService showed air temperatures varying between 8degC and 13degC, and seas temperatures steady at 12degC.

Otago Surf Life Saving SAR teams who returned to Purakaunui Bay yesterday afternoon also reported "good'' search conditions, with little swell.

Similar conditions were forecast for today.

Snr Const Hewitson said the search had continued until midnight on Saturday and resumed at 6am yesterday, involving five boats, six IRBs, a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft.

"Unfortunately, we've come up with no clues whatsoever.''