TRANSCRIPTS OF RESCUE RADIO TRAFFIC DURING THE SONIA NANCY INCIDENT
As recorded by
shortwave radio listeners and posted on internet newsgroups unless otherwise
News report as background for this story:
NEWS: 05 Jan 98
10 Saved In A Race Against Time On Mayday Trawler:
Freak Weather Returns To Bring Chaos To Ireland: 'Epic' Rescue In 90mph Storms: 10-man Crew
Of Irish Trawler Airlifted To Safety.
The 10-man crew of an Irish trawler were airlifted to safety yesterday in a 10-hour battle with the elements which rescue chiefs described as 'epic'.
The sea drama began at 7am when the Irish-registered Sonia Nancy sent out a
Mayday signal. The skipper reported that the trawler was in difficulties. She was shipping water and was under tow from a second fishing boat, the
Mapescal, when the towline snapped. He said he needed immediate assistance. The trawler was being tossed about like a cork in 90mph winds 200 miles south west of Lands End.
The SOS triggered an inter- national rescue mission involving two RAF helicopters, three Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft and a French container ship. As Falmouth Coastguard began sending radio messages to shipping the
30,000-ton French container ship Fort Desaix altered course and headed for the scene.
At 9am a Sea King helicopter was scrambled from RAF Chivenor in North Devon. The chopper, fitted with long-range tanks, was working at the limit of its range and would require two refuel-ling stops to reach the stricken trawler, which operates out of Spain.
The rescue crew were operating in daunting conditions, buffeted by a Force
11 gale and severe thunderstorms.
At 2 pm the fishing boat skipper announced that water was pouring into the engine room and he was about to abandon ship. As 60ft waves towered above them the desperate crew fought to keep the drifting trawler afloat.
As the situation became critical, the Frenchman announced that his arrival
time was being delayed by the weather.
But the giant ship arrived before the helicopters. As an RAF Nimrod circled overhead the captain hove to and began to manoeuvre into a position which would allow the vessel to drift towards the trawler. And his crew stood by for the hazardous task of pulling survivors on board.
But the trawler crew - nine Spaniards and one Irishman - refused to attempt a transfer in case the trawler was crushed by the container vessel's hull in the horrendous seas. The three Nimrods dropped dinghies close to the trawler. The exhausted crew who had lost one of the two life rafts they had on board were able to haul them from the sea, only to watch helpless as they were swept away again. They were left with only a six-man dinghy.
The Chivenor helicopter had meanwhile flown to Cork to refuel and then made a second stop at Castletownbere to top up for the final leg of its long distance flight. It arrived over the Sonia Nancy shortly before 5pm as darkness was falling and within 20 minutes had winched all 10 crew to safety.
Then with back up from a second Sea King from RAF Valley in North Wales it headed to the Scilly Isles for re-fuelling before making for the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose in Cornwall.
Last night as the Sonia Nancy drifted in high seas an RAF spokesman said:
'It was an epic rescue operation - a race against time for these crewmen. 'Our first priority was to get as many ships as possible to the scene while
our helicopters were making their way to the position.'
The storms brought Ireland its worst battering since Christmas Eve. Fifty visitors cut off on the island of Inishboffin off the Galway coast were airlifted out by the Air Corps. Food and medical supplies were also flown to the island during the operation.
The storm left thousands of travellers stranded after Irish Sea ferries were cancelled. The only sailing planned yesterday was an Irish Ferries service from Dublin to Holyhead, but it was postponed and more than 2,000 turned away. A further 6,000 passengers were waiting for crossings on Stena Line ferries. The storms also forced the cancellation of sporting fixtures around the country.
1004. Rescue 169 reporting current posn 51.25 N 05.45 W.
Kinloss reporting that Rescue 122 (Sea King - RAF Vaalley) now
en route to Cork to provide cover.
1055. Kinloss to Rescue 11, says that as Rescue 11 radar is u/s then a
further Nimrod, Rescue 12 to be launched.
1106. Kinloss says Rescue 122 estimates on scebe 1400z.
1107. Rescue 12 on the ground at Kinloss reports acft being prepared,
will have 5 hrs on scene endurance and Rescue 169 then says further
Nimrod will probably be required later.
1114. Kinloss ordered Rescue 12 to change callsign to Rescue 13 to avoid
confusion with Rescue 122.
Rescue 12/13 reports eta on scene 1255.
1120. Rescue ??? reports a ship (didn't copy name) is now within 20
miles of distressed ship.
1124 Rescue 122 now airborne, eta Cork 1255.
Rescue 169 eta Cork 1232, posn 51.32 W 006 N.
1125 Rescue 13 airborne, eta on scene 1250z.
1126 Rescue 122 aborting and returning to Valley as flotation gear has
inflated. Will transfer to back-up acft.
1135 Rescue 11 has just dropped third dinghy.
1137 Rescue 11 reports F/V Sonia Naci has caught one dinghy and is
attempting to retreive it.
With regard to earlier postings about the today's RAF SAR operation (Sonia
Nancy) off the Irish coast, Rescue 13 unsuccessfully tried to set up
phone-patch with callsign Sky News (satellite news station based in UK) via
Architect on 6733 KHz at 1738 GMT 4/1/98.
Architect now advising that attempt has been unsuccessful and Sky will
probably call them via landline Rescue 13's landing at 1859
Sound from Sky News broadcast could be heard in background as they tried to
set up pp
Rescue 13 has returned to 4718 which has been very busy with rescue traffic
in past hour or so as stations were asked by Kinloss to change frequency
For the log
6733 Rescue 33(RAF Nimrod) 1738 4/1/98 USB to Sky News unsuccessfully
trying to set up pp (AO)
Cork City, Ireland
Sony SW77 with G5RV
> Further to Keiths earlier posts rescue 13 has
>just ( 15.30 gmt ) informed kinloss rescue of a virtual mutiny by the
>crew of the sonia nanci who are refusing to board the life rafts dropped
At 14:05 GMT on Jan 04 1998 On 5680 Khz USB.
A Spanish Trawler 200 miles off the south west of Lands End Cornwall was
taking on water, During the storms that have hit the UK today.
The Ships name was Sonia Nanci.
Here is what I heard:
Kinloss rescue to Rescue 13 ( Nimrod ) rescue 121 and 169 ( Sea King )
A French container ship named the Fort Desaix was on its way to assist.
The Sonia Nanci had ten crew aboard with only 5 life jackets and 3 survival
At 14:18 All rescue aircraft were told to keep a listening watch on 121.5
VHF ( Civil air distress)
I did hear a Shamrock flight calling but he got no reply.
14:28 Rescue 13 reports that Sonia Nanci has only 1 hour left afloat and is
dead in the water and the crew are preparing to abandon ship.
Fort Desaix is 15 min away.
14:37 Kinloss tells 13 that Brize Norton ( Wiltshire ) will be his
destination for fuel and to call them on 357.475 when nearing them.
14:43 Rescue 169 position 5045N 01010.5 W reports weather as wind 45 Knots
with 40 foot waves.
14:47 Fort Desaix is 1 nautical mile from the scene.
15:06 Rescue 13 reports that the sea state has increased to 11-12 and that
Fort Desaix is close by and deploying its cargo nets over the side.
Sonia Nanci has lost the Dinghy and 13 only has 3 left.
15:20 13 asks 169 for ETA.
15:24 13 reports that the captain of the Sonia Nanci has a virtual mutiny
on his hands as the crew will not leave the ship!
15:27 Kinloss tells 13 that rescue 14 has been scrambled.
15:43 Rescue 169 estimates he will be able to stay on scene for 1 hour 20 min.
15:46 Rescue 13 reports that Sonia Nanci has told the Fort Desaix to stand
off and that the radio operator is the only one who wants to leave ship,
they had thought he was the captain.
15:58 Kinloss tells 13 that a new frequency is needed and to call Kinloss
on 8971 then return to 5680.
16:01 I am getting lots of QRM now.
16:02 Kinloss tells 13 to tell the Sonia Nanci to clear her decks of all
obstructions as 169 will be overhead soon.
Rescue 13 reports that the radio operator is the only one who can speak
16:08 Kinloss with the weather at Brize for 13.
16:11 Rescue 14 calls Kinloss for a radio check, Kinloss advises 14 that he
has diplomatic Clearance???
16:14 Light is failing.
16:19 Rescue 13 reports that 169 in winching the winch man down to the
Sonia Nancy and asks 169 to call him on 252.8 UHF.
16:22 Kinloss tells all stations to chop to 8971 khz,
13 was also using 123.1 VHF
16:32 13 reports that 169 has a line aboard but the sea is very mountainous
and it will be very treacherous to winch the crew off.
16:51 13 reports that 169 has 2 crew from the Sonia Nanci aboard and is
winching 2 more now.
16:57 13 reports that 169 now has all 10 crew aboard and is on route to
17:00 Kinloss confirms all 10 are safe.
Phew! Full credit to our rescue services I think.
While I was listening on 8971 slight splatter from 8968 turned out to be a
phone patch via Lajes ( USAF ) with DAGO71 in flight over Italy
reporting a burnt our thermal coupling and coolant loss on one engine Time
DAGO71 was diverting to Ramstein ( I hope thats how its spelt )
Confirmation and comments very welcome.
All the best for 1998 to you all.
>16:11 Rescue 14 calls Kinloss for a radio check, Kinloss advises 14 that he
>has diplomatic Clearance???
Hi all and Happy New Year,
I would suggest that this diplomatic clearence is for Irish Airspace so that
the RAF Nimrod can take the most direct route from Kinloss to the scene.
Also great to see all the reports , I only came in on the rescue at 15.30
after a prompt from a friend .The detailed reports helped to patch the story
together ! Many thanks to Keith especially.
I also noted that recently RCC Kinloss are using new freqs.4.718 and 8.971.
I noticed yesterday that when Kinloss was tx.he was doing so on both 5.680
Any others freqs. ??
I was listening for most of the time, Rescue 11 was working Kinloss,
and they were joined by the two Wessex helos from RAF Aldergrove in Belfast,
and Rescue 177 from Prestwick. At 1116z Kinloss was heard to ask Rescue 11
if he or any of the other helos on scene had any video equipment so they
could take film of the search for PR. At 1340z I heard Kinloss recall all the
above and tell them that the mission was cancelled, and they should return
to base and speak to them via landline. The search was only two thirds
complete at this stage, so I thought something was amiss.
The man responsible for the hoax was later revealed to be a former
lifeboatman, so I guess he would have had sufficient knowledge to be able
to make a convincing call. He was said to have been found with a bottle
of whiskey, and now deeply regretted the incident. He was charged with
an offence under the Telecommunications Act which could carry a prison
sentence. Thankfully there has been no mention of him having any radio
equipment yet, so at least we've been spared the usual misinformed
'CBers or Radio Hams' hysteria which the media usually throw at us after
Monitoring the marine freqs this evening heard Sea King 125 called
off local training ex to assist is Rescue of casualty from dingy on
River Stour (between Ipswich & Colchester). Comms were on 156.000.
All very interesting. R125 later continued ex after taking a very
cold person to Ipswich Hospital. All the stations involved changed
to Marine ch99 160.___ and preceded to pat each other on the back
and discuss ways to do thinghs better next time. btw, R125 was
unable to contact Kinloss on HF and requested Wattisham rescue on
125.800 to pass message onto they were contactable through CG on
Something worth noting was that 156.000 was used between the
helicoptor and one of the crew on the ground at the Hospital.
52deg03.30N - 001deg12.03E
*********************** snip *******************
> All the stations involved changed
>to Marine ch99 160.___ and preceded to pat each other on the back
>and discuss ways to do thinghs better next time. btw, R125 was
>unable to contact Kinloss on HF and requested Wattisham rescue on
>125.800 to pass message onto they were contactable through CG on
>Something worth noting was that 156.000 was used between the
>helicoptor and one of the crew on the ground at the Hospital.
All interesting stuff, but at the risk of being too pedantic, I should
note the following.
160.000 is not marine channel 99! It is the reverse frequency of Ch.0
(156.000). It is referred to as Ch.99 by coastguard and UKSAR personell
as there is no "official" way of referring to the channel. It is used as
a *non operational* chat freq when units want to talk to each other
litterally off the record. (Comms on Ch.0 are recorded at the CG
station, 99 is not). This brings me to my second point.
It is incorrect to use Ch.00 in the context you have above. The correct
way is Ch.0. Double zero is how some CG stations refer to Ch.99!
A small point, but worth noting.
On your last point, the crew of 128 (Leconfield) once told me that they
only handsets they carry are set for Ch.0 and this is the channel they
use for all aircraft / winchman comms. In such cases such as noted
above, the winchman usually uses the c/s "128 mobile"
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Hi Pat, list
> > All the stations involved changed
> >to Marine ch99 160.___ and preceded to pat each other on the back
> >and discuss ways to do thinghs better next time. btw, R125 was
> All interesting stuff, but at the risk of being too pedantic, I should
> note the following.
> 160.000 is not marine channel 99! It is the reverse frequency of Ch.0
> (156.000). It is referred to as Ch.99 by coastguard and UKSAR personell
> as there is no "official" way of referring to the channel. It is used as
> a *non operational* chat freq when units want to talk to each other
> litterally off the record. (Comms on Ch.0 are recorded at the CG
> station, 99 is not). This brings me to my second point.
Thanks for that Pat. I don't have a channel list for Marine here,
when the stations moved to "ch99" I just searched for where they had
gone. I was doing other things and didn't note down they freq but it
was 160.something. I'm not all that familier with the Marine side of
things and welcome any info.
> It is incorrect to use Ch.00 in the context you have above. The correct
> way is Ch.0. Double zero is how some CG stations refer to Ch.99!
> A small point, but worth noting.
Okay, noted... I'll have to go change my web page now, cor!
> On your last point, the crew of 128 (Leconfield) once told me that they
> only handsets they carry are set for Ch.0 and this is the channel they
> use for all aircraft / winchman comms. In such cases such as noted
> above, the winchman usually uses the c/s "128 mobile"
Remebering back I think the c/s was actually "125 mobile"