By Bill Blumenfeld

The two weathermen brought back on board the combat support ship SAS Outeniqua from remote Marion Island were taken to hospital shortly after the vessel docked in Simon's Town on Thursday.

The ship's captain Glen Knox said senior meteorologist Pieter Pretorius, who had developed a heart problem and diesel mechanic Bheki Majola, who was suffering from a bleeding ulcer, were taken by ambulance to No 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg.

Both men were in a stable condition and an operation on board the SAS Outeniqua would only have been carried out as a last resort.

Knox said the SAS Outeniqua arrived off Marion Island on Saturday but conditions were too bad for the helicopter to airlift the weathermen to the ship.

"We had to shelter in the leeway of the island with massive swells. At one stage the ship was rolling at 25 degrees.

The helicopter managed to fly in on Sunday with a doctor and members of the department of environmental affairs, Knox said.

"The two patients were then airlifted to the ship and put in the sick bay."

The ship's doctor had carried out a medical assessment of the two men and they were both in a stable condition.

One of the ship's own sailors suffered from stomach pains on Sunday.

About 12 days previously the sailor had an operation for appendicitis.

"His stomach was distended and the doctor said we needed to make for home quickly," Knox said.

The two Burundi teenagers who stowed away on the ship in Durban were only discovered four days out to sea.

Knox said when they did their rounds early in the morning they noticed that the windows of one of the trucks in the ship's holds were all fogged up.

"We looked inside and saw these two youngsters in the truck," Knox said. "We took them out, gave them some food and hot coffee.

"They were then given a hot bath and warm clean clothes."

The doctor examined both boys, Yusuf and Mohammed Osca, aged 14 and 17. The medical examination found they were fine but weak and very cold. They had been in the hold for four days at temperatures of three degrees.

"They were well looked after on the trip," Knox said.

He said immigration authorities waited on the quay as the ship berthed and the stowaways were taken away to Pollsmoor prison. It was up to the authorities what would become of the two boys.

Navy combat seaman Faith Mabena, who acted as a translator for the stowaways, said both boys said they had been very happy aboard the ship.

Knox said half the costs of the operation were being borne by the department of environmental affairs. But final costs had not yet been worked out.

The SAS Outeniqua covered more than 2 700 nautical miles from Durban to Marion Island and back to Simon's Town. - Sapa