Inuk hunter adrift on arctic ice floe

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stranded on a floe since it broke loose while he was snowmobiling across it on Friday, 39 year-old David Idlout is huddled in a tent dropped by rescue planes awaiting the arrival of a rescue helicopter that is scrambling from CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia, the closest rescue helicopter to Resolute, Nunavut.

While many places are experiencing cold temperatures, much of the Arctic has had an unusually mild winter. Too much so for professional hunter and hunting guide Idlout, who was out checking if conditions had improved after a cold snap. The breakaway floe is just more evidence conditions are still too warm, the ice too soft.

Idlout's survival gear included a satellite phone, and he called his wife Tracy Kalluk as soon as he became aware the floe had broken free and was drifting into the Northwest Passage. She in turn contacted local authorities in the population 252 remote village, who got in touch with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, based in Trenton, Ontario

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre scrambled two Hercules aircraft which were able to drop gear to the stranded man on Friday. The floe has been moving into the water between Griffith and Cornwallis Islands, and is approximately 15 kilometres from Resolute Bay. The supplies included a tent, stove, and additional communications gear including a locator beacon.

Now well into his third night on the ice, Idlout's rescue is expected within hours. An earlier attempt was delayed when the helicopter, after its long journey from its home base, experienced mechanical failures when trying to lift off from Resolute. Weather conditions are not helpful either, as Resolute remains under blizzard warning with poor visibility and 50 km winds. His wife is speaking with Idlout every two hours, and expects the helicopter to lift him off the ice early Monday local time.