Orion finds Cook Islands' castaways

Four men marooned on Manuae Island in the Cook Islands are spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion.
Four men marooned on Manuae Island in the Cook Islands are spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force
P-3K Orion (AK10-027-003)

17 May 2010

The crew of an Air Force Orion aircraft found four men marooned on Manuae Island (near Aitutaki) in the Cook Islands after they had been reported missing for five days.

The 12m longline fishing vessel "Gypsy Trader" left Rarotonga on the 5th May and was due back 9th May. The well equipped vessel had a communications system, emergency beacon, life jackets and dinghy and an outboard motor. The alarm was raised when a crew member's wife contacted Cook Island authorities when they did not return or make contact.  

Cook Islands authorities diverted a scheduled Air Rarotonga flight to the Gypsy Trader's last known position but they found no trace of the vessel. The authorities then contacted the Rescue Coordination Centre in NZ and a P3 Orion aircraft from No 5 Squadron, RNZAF was dispatched during the early hours of Saturday 15 May 2010.

The Orion crew found the four men (two of whom hold NZ passports) on Manuae Island when they spotted a dinghy and a blue tarpaulin set up as shelter on the beach. An emergency pack was dropped to the men which included a radio and confirmed that they were from the Gypsy Trader.

Commanding Officer No. 5 Squadron Wing Commander Nick Olney said, "It was a great result for our Orion crew who are trained to think of all possibilities when a vessel goes missing, including the possibility that the people on board may be at a remote land location, rather than being at sea."

It appears that the four men moored the vessel and then went ashore. The vessel then slipped its mooring approximately 10 days ago and drifted off in a southerly direction. They had been marooned on the uninhabited conservation reserve ever since. A patrol boat from Rarotonga uplifted the four men yesterday.


For further information contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Senior Media Adviser, Air Force. Mobile 021 420 899.


Located at RNZAF Base Auckland, the Squadron is the RNZAF's only maritime patrol Squadron covering New Zealand's maritime area of interest which is approximately 1/12 of the world's ocean surface, ranging from the Antarctic to the equator.

To meet NZDF Maritime Patrol Force requirements, No.5 Squadron provides:

  • Maritime surveillance
  • Maritime reconnaissance
  • Exclusive economic zone patrols
  • Anti-surface warfare operations
  • Search and rescue
This page was last reviewed on 19 January 2011.