A crowdfunding page, Save the Forty of Gulf Livestock 1, has raised more than A$117,000 ($84,000), to be put towards private searches of islands around Japan in the hunt for the missing 40 crewmembers from the sunken Panama-flagged carrier.
The team behind the search are anxious to raise more funds quickly as their initial fly-overs have yielded encouraging results including the sighting of a debris-filled spot on one of the islands.
The money has been spent so far on putting search helicopters and planes in the sky along with funding satellite imagery support with friends and families of the missing crew adamant they will find survivors 35 days on from the sinking of the Gulf Navigation ship which lost power and capsized in a typhoon while en route to China.
Just three men were found in the immediate aftermath of the accident, though one of them died shortly after he was rescued.
After two weeks of searching, images from crew and pilots have brought back promising results.
First, what appears to be a canopy from a Viking life raft, the same used on the Gulf Livestock 1, which was spotted by a helicopter on the south-west Japanese island of Kuchinoshima, approximately 260 km from the last known location of the Gulf Livestock 1, has triggered more hopes.
On the same day, a life ring and a single blue boot was spotted 35 km away on the island of Gajajima. Other sightings of dead cows and other ship debris have been spotted and photographed in a similar area.
“All of these findings run in line with drift particle maps put together by marine experts soon after the capsizing of the ship,” the organisers of the crowdfunding page stated in an update.
Any further donations will be going directly to search and rescue aircraft to search the remaining Tokara Island group and the islands south of Amami. Further funds would kickstart the search in the Izu Island group, south of Tokyo.
“This is not a search for closure, in our minds, this still remains an active search to rescue the missing crew. We cannot forget there are still four life rafts and one lifeboat from the ship still unaccounted for and we’re appealing for anyone who has the means to donate and join the search with us,” Harry Morrison, the organiser of the crowdfundraiser and a close friend of one of the missing Australians, stated.
The team has also created a map showing what the Japan Coast Guard and later searches have come across so far.