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Shipwrecked in Antarctica: The story of the “Mar Sem Fim”

Photo: Ruslan Eliseev

PortandTerminal.com, July 9, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – The Mar Sem Fim (“Endless Sea” in English) was a Brazilian yacht that was shipwrecked, sunk and then frozen in ice in Maxwell Bay, Antarctica, about 720 miles south of the tip of South America, on April 7th, 2012.

White yacht. Hill in background. Mar Sem Fim on hull.
The 76-foot Mar Sem Fim in happier times

Owned by a well-known Brazilian journalist and entrepreneur, João Lara Mesquita, the yacht had 4 people on board when she sank. The crew was shooting a documentary off the Antarctic coast when strong winds of over 40 knots caught the ship pushing it up against the ice.

Trapped in the ice, the crew launched a radio mayday distress call that was received by the Chilean Navy at Bahia Fildes, Antarctica.

All four on board were rescued, but bad weather delayed the process by a couple of days. The waves were very high and the wind continued to blow relentlessly. “Our evacuation was extremely risky. Waves of almost two meters and winds at 40 knots made the operations really hard” said a crew member in an interview.

When the Chilean Navy’s boat finally managed to get closer, the documentary filmmakers immediately jumped aboard and abandoned the yacht.

Mar Sem Fim, however, couldn’t be rescued. The near-freezing water that she had taken on later froze and split the hull when it expanded sending her to the bottom of the shallow bay.

Yacht sunk just below surface of water.

So there she lay, in about 30 feet of water, preserved and visible from above, for almost a year, until her rescue in 2013. 


Man on boat. Sunglasses. Rough sea
FILE PHOTO: João Lara Mesquita, a well-known Brazilian journalist and entrepreneur, was the owner of the Mar Sem Fim

Owner João Lara Mesquita managed to return to the site and when the weather cooperated, sent divers who wrapped lines under the hull and attached them to inflated buoys on either side.

Once the vessel was resurfaced, it was towed back to shore where the researchers recovered what they could salvage.

The ship, which was reportedly insured for $700,000, had a breached hull and significant damage from being submerged for 10 months was deemed beyond repair.

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