Claiming Nemo: Swiss sailor happy

Dunedin engineer Allan Craig with a signpost monument he built to mark Nemo Point in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Supplied
Dunedin engineer Allan Craig with a signpost monument he built to mark Nemo Point in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Supplied
A Swiss sailor has claimed one of the most remote territories on Earth for his homeland, with a little help from a Dunedin engineer.

Rene Schelker (70) has dropped a metal signpost monument, built by Steel Constructions A.C. engineer Allan Craig, to the sea floor beneath Nemo Point in a bid to claim the farthest location in the ocean from land.

Rene Schelker
Rene Schelker
The two met in Dunedin when Mr Schelker’s round-the-world voyage was delayed by a serious shoulder injury which required surgery at Dunedin Hospital.

He spent much of last year recovering in Dunedin, during which time he met Mr Craig and enlisted his help to build the monument.

It points to Raiatea, French Polynesia (2359 nautical miles), Dunedin, New Zealand (2612nm), Neuchtel, Switzerland (8402nm), Rosendale, United States (6012nm), Calice Ligure, Italy (8801nm) and Heiligenhafen, Germany (9112nm).

As well as dropping the monument, he also sent down the flags of Switzerland and the Otago Yacht Club, of which Mr Schelker is an honorary member.

Rather than just toss the monument over the side as he went past the marine ‘‘pole of inaccessibility’’, it was a carefully planned exercise, he said.

Because there was a 55kmh NW wind and an average NNW current of 0.5kmh at the time, Mr Schelker said the launching point had to be moved from Nemo Point by 285.5m to the SSE.

‘‘At Nemo Point, the Pacific Ocean is 4100m deep, to which 12.42m had to be added to take into account the oblique descent angle enforced by the prevailing current, as well as half a wave height of 2.5m.

‘‘The monument was designed to perform the descent down to the ground in 37 minutes and its special shape was calculated by Dunedin engineer Allan Craig to ensure during the descent, a steady helicoidal [self spinning] motion in order to maintain both stability and dissuasion of possible trouble-making onlookers [sea life].

‘‘The very high building precision was of utmost importance, since with a total of 442 spins (including 2 spins due to the oblique descent) the monument had to touch the ground of Nemo Point in the exact position, ensuring precision of the directions indicated by the signposts.

‘‘The tiniest imprecision would have required a slightly problematic adjustment.’’

Whether the signpost actually points in the right direction may never be known, he said.

Mr Schelker has now arrived in Chile, where he is taking a break and reflecting on the gruelling solo voyage.

‘‘It’s already a long time since I had that idea to cross single-handed the biggest ocean in its southern forties and to put my flags and pennants into Nemo Point’s ground.

‘‘Why, I don’t know. Maybe just because that’s how human beings are.

‘‘When a guy is in front of a mountain, he has to climb it and when a sailor is on the shore of an ocean, he has to go and have a look over the horizon.

‘‘Now that I have realised my little dream, I’m feeling sorry that I waited until my 70th birthday to make me this present.

‘‘What a moving privilege it has been to be able to discover this wonderful richness of our world simply by the force of the wind in the sails of my little boat, which gave me the time to perceive the real measure of things.’’

Mr Schelker said he now planned to make ‘‘necessary repairs’’ on his vessel before deciding where to go next.

‘‘We’ll see. I still don’t know what’s coming next, but it’s useless worrying about the future because it’s coming anyway.’’

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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