by Des Ryan
Never-say-die family and friends searching for the crew of the missing schooner Nina want New Zealand Search and Rescue to investigate a new satellite image, which they claim looks like a life raft, seen by searchers just this week and pictured here.
Nina - new satellite image found by persistence of private searchers
The image is of an oval shape with a trailing, white, underwater shadow.
The official search for the Nina and her seven crew was abandoned a month after the last message from vessel.
The 85-year-old schooner left Opua in the Bay of Islands at the end of May, bound for Newcastle in Australia, with six Americans and one British green politician who was known to refuse fly for ethical reasons.
Family and friends of those on board, who gather weekly in the deep south of the United States for discussions, have been fundraising to continue the search, and also viewing satellite images to help pinpoint useful search locations.
They're bitterly disappointed the search ended, and want the New Zealand Government to continue to search.
Today, Maritime New Zealand said it has seen the recent images, but didn’t believe they merited a resumption of the official search, which has already combed more than thousands square kilometres of ocean.
But they have provided drift information, which will help the private search company locate any object seen in the satellite photos.
It has now been 90 days since anyone heard from anyone aboard the vintage yacht, the Nina, which vanished while sailing from Opua, in New Zealand's Bay of Islands to Newcastle in NSW.
Nina in happier days
But in the six weeks since the official search was abandoned families of the seven crew on board have gathered in Texas and started their own search effort.
They've been supported by an army of 6000 volunteers scattered across the world who are scouring satellite images online of an area near Norfolk Island. And no one involved has given up hope of finding the six Americans and one Brit alive.
'Our daughter is out there on the ocean drifting,' Ricky Wright told the media last week of 18-year-old Danielle Wright. 'We have hope that they are still afloat and that is the most likely probability.'
The Nina was skippered by a very experienced sailor, David Dyche III, 58, who was on board with his wife, Rosemary, 60, and their teenage son David Dyche IV. They were joined by Ms Wright, adventurer Kyle Jackson, 27, Evi Nemreth, 73, and British man Matt Wooton, 35.
Speaking from their home in Lafayette in Louisiana, the Wrights said it would not be unheard of for all seven to have survived this long at sea. They point to a young family from Arizona rescued earlier this month off the coat of Chile who were lost at sea for 91 days.
Their search effort has also flown New Zealand yachting expert John Glennie, who survived 119 days adrift at sea, to Houston to assist their rescue effort.
The search is being co-ordinated by 20 volunteers with Texas Equusearch, a not-for-profit organisation that has helped locate more than 300 missing people predominantly in the US but also overseas.
One day's aerial search costs more than $20,000 and the families estimate they have already spent well in excess of $100,000 in their bid to bring the Nina home.
Along with search efforts, the families of the missing crew are holding regular fund-raisers so they can afford to keep the planes up in the air.