More details of the wreck and the initial rescue from Chief Islander James Glass.

See also:

Geo Searcher Wreck Update

Fishing vessel Geo Searcher sinks off Gough Island

Statement from Chief Islander and Head of Fisheries James Glass
Photos from Sean Burns of the inaugural Geo Searcher fishing trip to Gough in April 2017

MFV Geo Searcher off Gough Island in 2017 showing the sea stacks off the northern cliffed coast.
The fishing boats stowed on the stern of the ship were used during the rescue along with life rafts.

On the morning of 15th October 2020, I received a satellite phone call from Rodney Green, a Sea Fishery Officer/Observer onboard the MFV Geo Searcher. Rodney reported that the vessel had hit a rock in the waters to the North West of Gough Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, and water was coming into the engine room.

The vessel was listing heavily at 45 degrees, and they were still evacuating the crew. Four of the Geo Searcher's powerboats, which were fishing at the time, came to the rescue, picked up the rest of the 62 aboard in life rafts and towed them to the South African Meteorological Station on the other side of the island; this took four hours. There was a slight swell at the Met station landing, which consists of a 150ft cliff face (known as The Crane Point), where the crew were hoisted up by crane; this took a further four hours, and all were safely on the island by 1900h.

Two views of the crane hoist being used to transfer passengersfrom the MFV Geo Searcher's fishing boats in Transvaal Bay to the plateau and Met. Station above in April 2017.

It took four hours on Thursday 15th October 2020
to lift the 62 rescued from the Geo Searcher using this same lift.

There are two people with confirmed injuries, but these were not serious. The medic from the Gough Team was ready to assist, with the remainder of the Gough team preparing dinner and accommodation.

The Geo Searcher had been fishing for lobster at the northern islands of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago for some weeks, and had caught just over 50 tonnes at Inaccessible Island, and just under 50 tonnes at Nightingale Island. She had transhipped most of this catch to the MV Edinburgh to take back to Cape Town a few days earlier. She collected Sea Fishery Observers Rodney Green and Ian Lavarello on the 7th October, who went to do the Fisheries Independent Biomass Surveys at Gough Island. She had only been fishing a few days at Gough prior to the incident.

We are in close contact with the ship's owners, Ovenstone; the authorities in Cape Town; and officials in the United Kingdom. In South Africa, a multi-agency effort has been implemented by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) through its Marine Rescue Coordination Centre, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, which has despatched the research vessel SA Agulhas II, and AMSOL (African Marine Solutions). The SA Agulhas II left Tristan just a week ago, following a supply trip to Gough Island. She will now pick up the stranded crew of the MFV Geo Searcher, and the two Tristanian Fishery Observers.

The bulk carrier Bahri Arasco also diverted from her course in response to the distress call from the Geo Searcher.

On behalf of the Government and people of Tristan da Cunha, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who have come to our assistance and sent their prayers and good wishes. We will be working with all our partners in the coming weeks to assess the impact of this dreadful incident, but our immediate reaction is gratitude that no lives were lost.

Background information

The MFV Geo Searcher was acquired by Ovenstone in 2016. Originally built in 1982 as a scientific research vessel, she was converted in Gdansk, Poland, to a factory freezer vessel with cargo and passenger capacity. She made her maiden voyage to Tristan in April 2017 as the island's main fishing vessel. She was 69.2 metres long, and 1853GRT.