Father, daughter lost at sea for 27 days found in Australia
A New Zealand man and his six-year-old daughter, missing at sea for more than a month, landed in Australia on Wednesday after sailing their small, damaged yacht 2,600 kilometres across the Tasman Sea.
Alan Langdon, 46, and his daughter Que had planned a multi-day journey from Kawhai, on New Zealand’s west coast, to the east coast of the country’s north island.
The pair set sail on Dec. 17 with the goal of arriving at the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day, but after a storm damaged the yacht’s rudder they found themselves drifting out to sea.
WATCH: Father describes seeing hundreds of sharks, whales during journey lost at sea
Langdon — an experienced sailor — said he decided it would be safer to continue on to Australia rather than trying to find a route back to New Zealand’s shores.
“We were in the position with no rudder, we didn’t have as many options,” Langdon told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “We were getting pushed south and out. I didn’t realize that sailing with one rudder was going to be as difficult as it was, [it] was interesting, challenging.”
The Tasman Sea is considered a difficult crossing due to the often stormy weather that plagues the ocean.
“We didn’t have much fine weather which I was hoping for to repair the rudder,” Langdon said. “I was hoping for a couple of days of calm, but we didn’t get it, unfortunately.”
Local resident Christine Davidson said she saw the pair dock.
“I could see that they had been at sea for quite some time, quite wobbly on the land,” Davidson told Australia’s Channel 9.
WATCH: Father says he used stars, airplanes to guide drifting boat towards Australia
Their arrival in Australia ends an international search for the pair.
Langdon told reporters he didn’t even know rescuers were searching for him and his daughter.
“I had no idea … not till we got here,” he said. “We went over there to talk to the police and they [didn’t] seem too interested … when we first spoke to them they weren’t particularly worried. I guess no one was looking for us here.”
Langdon told Newshub that he used the stars and flight paths to keep him on course.
Langdon will spend a few days in Ulladulla fixing the broken rudder before sailing north to Port Kembla to be processed by Australian customs.
Local reports say Langdon’s estranged wife suggested the journey was an attempt by Langdon to flee to Australia with their daughter.
According to ABC, Ariane Wyler, the girl’s mother, hired a child-recovery service to locate the pair.
“Despite initial thoughts to the contrary and, nothing against the New Zealand authorities, they did think [the journey] was foolhardy and that no one in their reasonable mind would attempt it, he did,” Col Chapman, the Australian child recovery expert hired by Wyler told ABC.
Reports indicated that Chapman was hired by Wyler more than a year ago to locate Langdon and her daughter. She was found living with Langdon in a rural area of New Zealand.
Wyler told ABC that she believed Langdon would try to reach Australia with their daughter.
“He knows the sea, he knows the wind, he understands that,” she said. “He’s a very capable man. He’s able to fix things as they go wrong.”
— With files from Global News and The Associated Press.
© 2017 Reuters