Scotsman heading for Antarctica found dead in cabin of deep-sea fishing trawler
A Scotsman heading for Antarctica has been found dead in the cabin of a deep-sea fishing trawler.
David Virgo, 68, an international fisheries observer from Ardesier, between Inverness and Nairn, suffered a bowel infarction, an irreversible damage to the intestine, according to an autopsy.
His sister Liz Smart said: “David died at sea doing what he loved the most. It’s a blessing and a great comfort to me.
He was found dead in his cabin aboard the Norwegian deep-sea fishing trawler Saga Sea last month, while off the coast of South America, sailing south towards the polar region.
As part of his work as an international fisheries observer, Mr. Virgo had left the port of Montevideo in Uruguay two days earlier.
A few days earlier, he had bid farewell to his sister Liz Smart, of Ardersier’s Nairn Road, promising to reconnect in the spring following his trip.
After his death, the Norwegian ship immediately changed course back to Montevideo. Mr. Virgo’s body has since been repatriated.
A post-mortem examination revealed that the cause of death was intestinal infarction, an irreversible damage to the intestine that can rapidly become life-threatening.
His sister said: “David died at sea, doing what he loved the most. It’s a blessing and a great comfort to me.
His only other surviving relative is niece Lesley Macfadyen.
The siblings grew up in the village of Nairnshire, raised by parents Tommy and Betty.
Tommy also loved the sea and worked all over the world on cruise liners before his death at the age of 49.
The late Betty was a nurse who emigrated to New Zealand after the war, where she met Tommy on her work trips.
After the children grew up, Betty again worked overseas as a medical professional in Saudi Arabia.
Liz described how David inherited his parents’ thirst for adventure and love of the high seas.
She said: “All he ever wanted to do was go to sea. When he left school he joined the Royal Navy, training at HMS Ganges near Ipswich.
“He became an able-bodied sailor but never had the ambition to move up the ranks. He just enjoyed life.
“He then joined the Merchant Navy like my father Tommy. It was just in their blood.
Mr Virgo, also an experienced diver, later worked off the North Sea, before continuing his love affair with the ocean as an international fisheries observer.
The role involved up to three months on board a fishing vessel or factory ship working for a government agency or third-party contractor.
During the debriefing, he was instructed to detail any unusual events, safety issues or violations regarding the monitoring and management of fish stocks and marine habitats.
Ms Smart said: ‘It was right up her street, but it was quite a lonely and dangerous life.
“He would be pretty much alone on the ship, eating with the captain but not mingling with the crew.
“David valued his independence and wasn’t married – if a girlfriend looked at a jewelry store, he was gone!”
“He loved his trips to Antarctica and also loved photography, taking so many pictures of wildlife and the polar environment.
“When I got the phone call, I couldn’t believe it. I was just really dumbfounded.
Back on dry land, Mr Virgo was an avid pool player with his old friends from the service at Huntly, where he was most recently living, and Liz added: ‘Although his work later in life was very solitary, he was more of a social type.
“He loved music, drinking, laughing and partying.”
Mr. Virgo was privately cremated at his own request. In the spring, his ashes will be buried in the Croy cemetery where his parents are buried, near the river where he played and fished when he was young.
Dr. Steven Young, a consultant with sustainable resource consultancy MRAG, hired Mr. Virgo during his work trips to Antarctica.
Dr Young said: ‘David was an experienced and well-regarded contract fishing observer who had deployed at sea for MRAG for over 20 years.
“His passing was a shock and sadness to all of us.”
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