First of all, the kayak was in excellent shape, apart from Casper the cockpit cover missing - and there is a suggestion that this could have actually broken away in the 24 hours after Andrew was separated from the kayak. It would have been full of water and being washed about in the swells, and could have easily broken away.
The pump batteries (two of them, with separate switches) were fully charged, and the pump worked when tested. The satellite phone still worked, although the battery was getting low. The socket in the kayak that was used for charging was corroded, it was inside the rear compartment, and had been under water for 24 hours.. The three GPS's were still working. The EPIRB was still in the kayak and was tested OK. The paddle was still attached to the kayak. There was food in the cockpit.
Paul has viewed some of the video (the NZ police still have some of the waterlogged video). The video plainly shows him wearing his dry suit in the kayak. I know from talking to him at Fortecscue Bay that his intention was to always put this on if his weather forecaster in Sydney warned him of a big blow coming. This would mean that if anything happened and he ended up out of the kayak he would be prepared for it. So some of the video shows him wearing it. A very sensible precaution.
In the video he also mentions that he had capsized twice, and had to climb back into the kayak. This was quite difficult ('gnarly' to use his own words) and he was very concerned that he not capsize again. A normal kayak can be re-entered over the back deck, but Casper would stop this method. And the front deck had gear on it as well, including a mounted video camera. Some of you might wonder why he didn't roll up. For a start, there was no normal seat in the kayak, and it was a very large cockpit. Because he had to slide down into it to sleep, he was sitting on a bean bag that he specially made, and I can remember him saying that this was a vast improvement over the bag he was using on the first aborted trip.This bean bag was also used as a pillow for sleeping. The other reason for not having a normal seat was that the rear compartment was accessed from inside the cockpit, through a hatch in the rear bulkhead. There was no external hatch on this compartment. To get stuff out of here he had to lie down in the kayak, roll over on his stomach, remove the hatch cover. His gear in here had long strings attached to them so they could be pulled out.
What went wrong? This is the best guess made by the people on the spot
- but is conjecture, as told to me buy Paul.
He was getting tired (he went through emotional highs and lows - this from the video), but was finally in good weather, and in sight of land (the peaks of the mountains anyway). A small front came through that he possibly didn't bother putting his dry suit on for, maybe because it was a very hot day. He was probably exuberant at being close to land and may have paddled more than he was fit to do, and was extra tired. The cold front capsized him and put him in the water. He could not get back in. He got in under the kayak and unscrewed the rear hatch to get his drysuit out, and the VHF radio. If he was tethered he would have to untether to get into the dry suit. Somehow he got separated from the kayak and it blew away from him faster than he could swim - especially in a dry suit, or half in one.
The rest you know.
I repeat, the above is conjecture from the people on the spot - but a reasonable explanation that would cover all the facts.
Why didn't he go for the EPIRB. I know Andrew thinks the same as I do on this subject. It is a last resort. It is far better (if possible) to make contact by phone or radio and let people know the exact situation - rather than the huge panic and search that an EPIRB generates. Having said that, I'm quite sure that he would have intended to set it off (as I would) once he was in the dry suit. It was the separation from the kayak that brought him undone.
What lessons can be learnt from this tragedy? First of all, it
is possible to paddle a kayak from Tasmania to New Zealand. Never
forget that. Andrew planned this expedition in meticulous detail,
and he was right - it can be done.
Had he had a small strobe light in an inside pocket of his paddling jacket he may well have attracted the attention of the two helicopters that went out searching on the friday night. And in hindsight the EPIRB should always be attached to the person, not the kayak.
Wednesday 14th February, 2007.
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