They were to find circumstances on the vessel "strange" and the three man crew missing...
They were to find circumstances on the vessel "strange".
It looked as if everything was set up for a meal, with food and utensils set out on a table. The engine was still running, and computers and a laptop were also set up and turned on. The anchor was up. Emergency systems on board, including its radio and GPS, were still functional, and the vessel still had its full set of life jackets. Fishing lines were still being ran from the boat, a cup of coffee was found near a life ring at the helm, and the personal belongings of the crew, including wallets and hung-out laundry, were found near slept-in beds. Maps were still placed out on another table. There had been no distress signals sent by the crew, and the boat looked to be in perfect working condition.
What is known is that Batten, who is said to have been an experienced and careful yachtsman, had purchased the craft ten months earlier and along with the Tunstead brothers, who were also skilled sailors, planned to sail the ship, called the Kaz II, from Airlie Beach along the northern and western coasts of Australia in what would have been an eight-week, 5000km nautical trek along some of the worlds most captivating coastlines. The journey had been planned for some significant time beforehand, and they were to dock back in Perth.
Departing Airlie Beach on Sunday April 15th in the morning between 7-8am, Peter Tunstead was rung by his wife within the next two hours, where he told her their next stop was Townsville, nearly two days away. Shortly afterwards Batten made a routine call to the radio operator on shore, and that was the last contact thought to have been made by the crew.
A video recording shot by James Tunstead, time-stamped at just after 10am on that Sunday morning, was found by investigators when the Kaz II was towed back into Townsville by investigators on the following Friday. It shows Peter Tunstead fishing while sitting on the aft stairway, not wearing a life-jacket. Batten is shown at the helm. The sea was a bit rough, and as the camera pans 360 degrees, it shows islands and surroundings which helped investigators pinpoint their location. A long white rope can be seen trailing behind the boat, and the engine is not running. Within the next thirty minutes the three men were to disappear without a trace.
During the forensic investigation, the GPS system provided the most intriguing information, as at half past ten it shows something happened to the men at this time as the boat started to veer perilously off-course further out to sea. A week long search had already started on the 18th, and proved fruitless.
An inquest into the incident began sixteen months later in August 2008, and it was determined that the men did not meet with foul play and did not stage their disappearances. The Queensland coroner stated in his report that the men died due to a "tragic accident", in which a scenario is put forth that Peter Tunstead may have attempted to free a lure that had become entangled on the ship's port side rudder and fell overboard. James then went in to rescue his brother and Batten, still at the helm, may have turned the engine on in an attempt to go back for them, but was knocked overboard by the sails before he got a chance to drop them (the sails) and the men all were unable to make it to the boat that was speeding away. There is evidence to support this theory, but many local yachtsman, and it is said some of the family members of the vanishing men, have never fully agreed with this conclusion.
(note the coroner himself has also stated the he "cannot be so definitive about the circumstances under which the deaths occurred." ~ Ash.)
So what else could have happened to these men?
Could a gigantic squid have attacked the catamaran and pulled the men into the sea?
In an episode of the Discovery Channel TV show 'Weird or What?' (hosted by Star Trek star William Shatner) a psychotherapist by the name of Barbara Lamb put forth her theory that a UFO, or rather a USO (Unidentified Sea Object) took the men and are possibly being held captive by extra-terrestrials who travel through the oceans in underwater vessels. And would you believe it, there is a twist that might make this idea a little compelling and thought worthy, as many Ufologists from around Australia are aware of multiple eyewitness accounts on the evening of the 14th of April (the evening prior to the Kaz II's departure) of a grey saucer shaped object, metallic looking and over 100 feet in diameter hovering above cars on a highway for some minutes. It was edged with bright lights and was then seen heading at high speed directly out to sea. These reports were made by people near Airlie Beach.
Another theory, much more plausible, is that the men may have docked with another vessel, as its fenders were out when it was found. Could they have been kidnapped by criminals smuggling whatever in or out of the country?
Or were one or all of the men involved in criminal behaviour that got them killed?
Will we ever know what exactly happened to these three men?
It is unlikely, but what is for sure is that the story of these men and their disappearance, and theories as to their fates, will continue to be told.
What do you think happened to these three sailors?