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Adelaide yachtsman and mate missing near Tonga

19/06/2012

Ian Thompson, aged in his 60s, is a ship’s captain and marine pilot based at Port Adelaide. He had travelled to the Caribbean to buy the Navillus and was sailing it back to Australia when the yacht ran aground.

Hope for missing North Adelaide yachtsman Ian Thompson has been fuelled by a story of survival from a group who were stranded on the uninhabited Tongan island of Late.

Mr Thompson and his Victorian mate Erwin Claus have been missing since Mr Claus made an emergency satellite phone call to his partner Sue Love on Thursday night from the 15.2m Bavaria yacht, Navillus, which ran aground near Tonga.

The search for the men will be centred on the island of Late, west of Vava’u, near where debris of the yacht was found – after previous attempts were cancelled because of poor weather and high seas.

The wreckage of Mr Thompson’s yacht, including its hull and an undeployed life raft, was found on Friday.

Rescuers are pinning their hopes on a land search of Late after an extensive on-water search and an air search over more than 650sq km failed to find the men.

Matangi Tonga reporter Mary Lyn Fonua said she received a letter from a Tongan reader who said he was part of a group that survived on Late for a week.

“When he was 18, he was stranded on the island with a group of seismologists and a couple of Tongan guides,” Ms Fonua said.

“He described there being a landing place on the north of the island and an old settlement site there with overgrown gardens.

“They were able to survive on wild bananas and coconuts and also by getting shellfish. They survived for a week on the island before they were rescued.”

Flinders Ports general manager marine operations Carl Kavina said Mr Thompson’s survival instincts would hold him in good stead if he were able to make it to Late.

“He would have been trained in survival at sea matters when he did his master mariner training,” he said.

“I’m very hopeful that he has made it to the island.”

“Hopefully, fingers crossed, they can find him.”
»Adelaide yachtsman Ian Thompson one of two men missing near Tonga

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