Three sailors from Russia and France were rescued on Wednesday after the inflatable catamaran they were trying to navigate from Vanuatu to Australia came under attack from sharks, authorities said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it responded to an alert from an emergency beacon at about 1:30 a.m. When rescuers arrived at the scene more than 500 miles east of the Australian coast in the Coral Sea, they found both hulls of the men’s 9-meter boat had been damaged after several shark attacks.
The agency enlisted the help of a Panamanian-flagged ship, the vehicle-carrying “Dugong Ace,” which was able to complete the rescue and take the two Russians and one Frenchman aboard. A rescue plane also flew to the scene.
“The three males were very happy to be rescued, and they’re all healthy and well,” said Joe Zeller, duty manager at the agency’s Canberra response center.
Footage shot by a rescue helicopter shows the catamaran bobbing in calm seas as it is approached by the hulking Dugong Ace.
The men, aged between 28 and 64, are due to arrive in the Australian city of Brisbane on Thursday.
Zeller said a journey from the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu to Australia on such a vessel would usually take two to three weeks.
Aerial photos showed major damage to the catamaran, with the front section of one hull completely missing.
Zeller said the GPS-encoded emergency beacon had saved the men’s lives by allowing rescuers to quickly pinpoint their location and mount an appropriate rescue.
“This is a timely reminder to always carry a distress beacon while on the water,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. “GPS-equipped EPIRBs and personal locater beacons (PLBs) can save your life in an emergency.”
Zeller said there were many reasons why a shark may attack a boat.
“However, the motivations of these sharks is unclear,” Zeller said.
The Coral Sea is brimming with reef sharks and other apex species such as tuna and marlin.
According to the Australian government, it is home to more sharks “than almost any other survey site in the world.”
Last year, three men whose fishing boat sank off the Louisiana coast were rescued “in the nick of time” by the U.S. Coast Guard after surviving for more than a day despite being attacked by sharks.
AFP contributed to this report.