True CrimeUnsolved Crime

Des Batten & The Kaz II – The most mysterious sea disappearance

Ghosts that Sailed the High Seas

A little after 7 a.m. on the morning of April 15th, 2007, three men launched a 35-ft white catamaran called the Kaz II from a marina in northeastern Australia, kicking off what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. The captain of the Kaz II was 56-year-old Des Batten (Derek Batten).

Des Batten
Des Batten

For months, he’d been training for this trip. The two friends that Des Batten was bringing with him on this trip were Jim Tunstead, who was 63 years old, and Jim’s brother, Peter Tunstead, who was 69 years old.

All three of the men had spent a lot of time plotting their actual course. They’d be going from this Marina on the northeastern side of Australia up and around the north side and then down the western coast to Perth, which was their final destination and where all three men lived. In total, this trip was supposed to take 8 weeks.

Their Planned Voyage
Their Planned Voyage

All three men were absolutely giddy with excitement at the prospect of spending an entire two months basically just drinking beers and fishing.

Now, Des Batten, Jim, and Peter were not the types to blow off responsibility to go party. I mean, they were devoted family men. All of them had been married for 30 plus years. Des Batten had two kids, Jim had four kids, and Peter had five kids. But they were all either retired or nearing retirement, and this trip was going to be a way to celebrate the end of an era.

While all three of them had gone on other big sailing trips, this one easily was the biggest one in terms of the distance they were covering and how much prep went into it and how expensive it was. I mean, this was like 10x the scope and scale of any other sailing trip they had done.

So, on April 15th, 2007, shortly after the three men had launched their boat and kicked off this big trip, Peter’s wife would call him just to see how it was going. She would say Peter was in great spirits, and she could hear the other two men laughing in the background. It sounded like they were about to start fishing and maybe have a couple of beers. So, it seemed very much to Peter’s wife like this trip was going as well as it could be so far. Eventually, Peter told his wife that he had to go. He told her he loved her, and then they hung up.

Real Footage From The Kaz II
Real Footage From The Kaz II

Now, Des Batten, who was the captain of the Kaz II, was adamant about safety being the top concern for this trip. Even though all three men were relatively healthy and had a lot of sailing experience, and even though Des was a member of a volunteer Marine rescue group and so literally could be called on to go perform rescues at Sea, despite all this experience and know-how, before they kicked off this trip, Des made Jim and Peter go through all these Man Overboard drills on the Kaz II to make sure they knew how to do it if, for some reason, an emergency arose out at Sea.

So, the men got really comfortable using all the life-saving equipment and going over all the procedures. Also, when they charted their course, Des stressed that at no point should they be sailing into Open Water. They needed to stay close to shore the whole time just because it was safer.

So, when Jim began filming a video around 10:00 a.m. on the day they set sail for this trip, you can clearly see the shore in the background of this video. So, they’re following the course they had planned. But a couple of hours after Jim had shot that video on the day they left, a woman named Isabelle Wheeler, who did not know Des, Jim, or Peter and had never seen the Kaz II before, was fishing in an area called Champagne Bay when she looked out into the water and she saw the Kaz II, a white 35-ft catamaran, sailing east to west across the Horizon.

Then, at some point, as Isabel was watching this boat, which really meant nothing to her, she just happened to be watching it. She saw it make a quick 90° turn and began sailing out towards the open ocean, away from the coastline. Now, remember, Isabelle knows nothing of the boat or its occupants and so has no idea that Des, Peter, and Jim had been so clear about at no point will we sail into the open ocean. It’s too dangerous, stay close to shore. She didn’t know that. And so, she just saw a ship turning and sailing out to the open water and she thought, ‘Okay, whatever, you know.’ So, she didn’t go and report what she saw. It was only later on when details emerged about what happened on the Kaz II that she would later come forward and say, ‘Hey, I saw that boat, and this is what they did.’

The next day, April 16th, two more people would spot the Kaz II. These were two men who also did not know Des, Peter, Jim, they didn’t know Kaz II, they didn’t know Isabelle. In fact, these two men didn’t know each other. But independently, on this day, they looked out near Champagne Bay and they saw the Kaz II sailing east to west in the exact same spot that Isabel had seen it the day before.

The Kaz II
The Kaz II

Now, remember, the Kaz II was traveling from that Marina on the Northeast side of Australia all the way around to Perth. It was a point A to point B trip. There was no reason the Kaz II would ever double back and be in the same place 24 hours later. But here we were 24 hours later, and two more people are seeing the Kaz II in the same place that Isabel had seen it. That made no sense. But again, these two men who saw the Kaz II, they just saw it and thought nothing of it because they don’t know anything about this boat. It wasn’t until later that they eventually came forward with what they saw.

Then, one more day after that, on April 17th, there were these fishermen that were out in their boats a little farther north of Champagne Bay where Isabel and the two other men had seen the Kaz II on consecutive days. And these fishermen, they spotted the Kaz II. Again, these fishermen do not know the Kaz II, they don’t know its occupants, they’re just seeing the ship. Except, this time, the fishermen, when they saw the Kaz II, they thought something was wrong because they saw the Kaz II from a distance navigating its way fairly close to shore in an area that these fishermen knew was full of coral reefs. It’s a very dangerous area to be piloting any ship.

In addition, the sail of the Kaz II was totally ripped to shreds. The fishermen, they’re looking at the ship, wondering what they’re doing, but the pilot of the ship looked so in control as he’s navigating his way through the coral reefs that the fisherman thought, ‘Okay, he knows what he’s doing. So, you know, leave them alone.’ But again, later on, they would report what they saw.

It wasn’t until the next day, April 18th, three days after Des, Peter, and Jim had set sail, that anybody realized there was an issue with the crew of the Kaz II. Because on April 18th, a coastwatch surveillance helicopter was flying over the Great Barrier Reef and they looked down and they saw the Kaz II with its badly damaged sails, piloting all around this very dangerous part of the water to be piloting.

Real Footage From The Helicopter
Real Footage From The Helicopter

The crew on board the helicopter attempted to radio down to the Kaz II to see if they were okay, but no one from the Kaz II called back to the helicopter. And so, as they’re waiting for a response from the Kaz II, the helicopter crew is watching the pilot of the Kaz II, clearly navigating the boat in between coral reefs. And it seemed like, you know, despite the damage to the sails, he knew what he was doing. So, to the crew on the helicopter, this didn’t really look like an emergency, but it seemed like something worth flagging. And so, they called the Marine police and said, ‘Hey, we have this ship here that’s not responding. We think they’re okay, but you might want to come take a look.’

Real Footage From The Helicopter
Real Footage From The Helicopter

The Marine police would come out to the area where the helicopter had said they had seen the Kaz II. And when they got there, the Kaz II was gone. At this point, the Marine police got some information about the boat Kaz II and discovered who owned the boat and who was on this trip. So, Des, Peter, and Jim. And the police would get in touch with all of their families.

All of them would tell police that, besides Peter’s wife who talked to Peter on that morning they left, no one had heard from any of the men. They had gone totally silent since that first day. And so, when police heard this, they knew this had to be some kind of emergency.

A search was launched to find the Kaz II. And 48 hours later, a rescue helicopter that was part of the search was about 80 or so miles off the northeastern coast of Australia when they looked down and they spotted the Kaz II and it still had all torn up sails and it was kind of spinning listlessly in the water. And from the helicopter, they couldn’t see anybody on board the ship. It was totally vacant on the deck.

At this point, authorities really have no idea what’s going on with this boat or its occupants. It was possible that maybe they had been hijacked. And so, Des Batten, Peter, and Jim could be held hostage down below, along with the people that took them hostage. Or maybe the boat just got stolen, and Des, Peter, and Jim are not on this boat, and that it’s just the criminals on board and again they’re down below hidden from view. Authorities, they don’t know. But they decided to take a risk and just send somebody down to get on that boat and just see what was going on.

A rescue officer on board the rescue helicopter named Corrie Benson was lowered by a rope where he was dropped into the water, and then Corrie swam by himself over to the Kaz II. He climbed up the side of the boat and he stepped onto the deck. Right away, he noticed it was kind of eerily quiet on board the boat. There was nobody he could see, and there was no sign of any disturbance besides the sails of the ship being all tattered.

For a second, Corrie thought about maybe calling out for Des, Peter, and Jim to see if they were down below and could come up and solve this mystery. But then, he also worried that if he called out, there could be some bad people on board this boat, and he didn’t want to draw their attention. And so, Corrie was quiet and just began walking towards the front of the boat.

As he did, he began to notice signs that people must have recently been on board this boat doing normal things. Like, for example, there was a fishing rod that was cast out into the water that was anchored to a post on the side of the boat that looked like it had just been operated minutes ago. There was a blue mug of coffee that was just sitting on a table that looked like maybe someone had been drinking from it recently. There was a neatly folded t-shirt on another chair with a set of glasses on them. I mean, there were just all these kinds of tells that this was a boat that was being used recently.

Photo from the Ship
Photo from the Ship

And when Corrie actually got to the front of the boat where the captain would stand, he saw the engine was actually still on. It was idling. And so, Corrie turned it off. At this point, Corrie knew his next step was going down the stairs and opening up the door that led into the cabin down below to see if Des Batten, Peter, and Jim were down there.

But he also knew when he went down there, despite there being backup up in the helicopter and more people making their way out here, Corrie would be all alone if there were criminals or bad people down there. But this was his job. And so, after taking a deep breath, he turned and walked down the few steps and he got to the door that led to the cabin. He grabbed the handle and he opened it up.

The room he was walking into was kind of like a half living room, half kitchen area. And he saw there was this table, and on it was a newspaper that was dated April 15th, the day the Kaz set sail. And then on the wall behind the newspaper was a calendar where days had been marked off all the way through April 14th.

Photo of the Ship's Cabin
Photo of the Ship’s Cabin

April 15th was not marked off. But also nearby on a table was a computer that was still plugged in and on and looked very much like someone had just been using it. And also, there were plates of food that were out that didn’t look that old, that also seemed like people must have just been eating from them.

And then also, Corrie could see past this common area into the bedroom. And very obviously, the bunks inside of there had been slept in. So, basically, everything seemed like it was where it should be. There was just one problem: Des Batten, Peter, and Jim were not on the ship. There was no sign of where they were. They were just gone. And there was nobody else on board the ship. It was just completely abandoned with no sign of what happened.

Jim, Des and Peter
Jim, Des and Peter

Des Batten, Jim, and Peter were never found. And so, we have no idea what actually happened to them, nor do we have any idea why they were seen by Isabel and the two men and the fishermen doing all these weird things, like randomly piloting out towards open water, which totally went against their plan, which was ‘stay close to shore, be safe.’

Investigators searching the Kaz II
Investigators searching the Kaz II

Or why, on that second day, they were seen in the same spot near Champagne Bay, indicating they had doubled back after going towards Open Water, you know, that went against their plan, which was point A to point B. Why are they doubling back around?

So, unfortunately, this whole thing is just one big mystery that has yet to be solved.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
error: Content is protected !!

Adblock Detected