48 students aboard the S/Y Concordia found themselves in lifeboats bobbing in the Atlantic for two days after their sailing yacht sank 550 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
According to the Vancouver Sun, the students, mostly Canadian high school and first year college students with some Americans, were part of a Canadian "Class Afloat" program aboard the Concordia "tall ship." Class Afloat provides high school and university students an opportunity to study while at sea.
The three-masted vessel capsized in strong winds on Wednesday, leaving the passengers and crew stranded in the Atlantic, clinging to life rafts for two days.
There remains an issue why it took so long for rescue vessels to arrive. The newspaper reports that a distress signal went out about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday - but it was not until 5 p.m. on Thursday before the Brazilian airforce spotted the life boats. The rescue was not complete until Friday morning.
The Concordia is registered in Barbados, which is the country now responsible for the investigation.
The newspaper reports that all of the rescued kids donned black baseball caps stitched with "F42" referring to the naval vessel which delivered them safely to shore in Brazil.
After learning that all of the students and crew were rescued, the president of the school rightly announced:
"We've lived through a miracle at sea."
Rescued students The Associated Press (via The Telegram)
Concordia sailing yacht West Island College (via CBS News)
Video The Associated Press
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February 21, 2010 Update:
The Calgary Herald published the following time line regarding the rescue of the students and crew aboard the Concordia tall ship:
Wednesday, Feb. 17:
2:30 p.m. - a distress signal goes out from the Concordia
9 p.m. - Brazilian navy receives alert.
Navy officials spend 18 hours confirming what ship sent the signal, whose flag it was under. Confirms location, attempts radio contact with the Concordia. Contacts the school - is informed the last contact with the ship did not indicate any problem.
Thursday, Feb. 18:
2:30 p.m. - Brazilian navy asks air force to do a flyover of the area and alerts merchant ships in the region. Stormy seas prevail.
5 p.m. - Brazilian air force spots lifeboats.
9 p.m. - Merchant ships Crystal Pioneer (photo above) and Hokuetsu Delight (photo below) told to go to location. Stormy seas, bad weather continue.
Friday, Feb. 19:
4 a.m. - Crystal Pioneer spots lifeboats - due to darkness and high seas, waits to pluck the survivors to safety.
7 a.m. - The relieved passengers start boarding the Crystal Pioneer and Hokuetsu Delight.
9 a.m. - Last lifeboat located, passengers transferred to Hokuetsu Delight.
Saturday, Feb. 20:
All 64 students, teachers and crew arrive safely in Rio de Janeiro
Sources: Nigel McCarthy and The Brazilian Navy (via Calgary Herald)
March 5, 2010 Update:
There are some excellent photographs of the lifeboat and the students being rescued on line at the Amver blog.
Crystal Pioneer CIShipping.com Cayman Registery
Hokuetsu Delight Shipspotting.com (Andreas Schlatterer)