Military helicopter rescues Inuit hunter from drifting ice floe

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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RESOLUTE, Nunavut - On his fourth day stranded on an ice floe that was drifting out to sea, Inuit hunter David Idlout began to get the sinking feeling he could be in pretty serious trouble, says a relative.
Ludy Pudluk, who is also mayor of the tiny hamlet of Resolute, was one of those on hand Monday when his long-time friend and distant cousin stepped off a search and rescue helicopter which had shortly before plucked him off the ice.
"He said just before the helicopter arrived, he felt the ice where he was at was starting to breaking up," said Pudluk. "I think the helicopter got there just in time."
Idlout, 39, spent three nights on ice that he estimated to be about half a metre thick. About 2:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, after two previous failed attempts, rescuers in a Cormorant helicopter from Trenton, Ont., were finally able to lift him off.
"He was cold and tired but otherwise in good health," said Pierre Bolduc of the Canadian Search and Rescue Centre.
A crowd of well-wishers greeted Idlout as he landed in the hamlet at the northern end of Resolute Bay.
"There were lots of people there," said RCMP Const. Ted Munro. "He is currently safe and sound and home with his family."
Pudluk said it all began last Thursday when Idlout's snowmobile broke down and he had to walk 30 kilometres back to Resolute. The journey tired him out so much that when he set out on Friday on another machine to see if he could tow the first one home, he told his wife he was taking a satellite phone with him just in case.
"He was too tired to walk back that 19 miles again," said Pudluk. If something went wrong, "he could call and somebody could pick him up."
Idlout had no idea just how wrong things would go, and how grateful he would be to have that phone.
"On his way back there was a big crack," said Pudluk, and suddenly Idlout was facing a huge stretch of water that was too wide to cross.
"He called his common-law wife and said he's in a bad situation."
Tracy Kalluk then called the RCMP, who contacted search and rescue.
A Hercules aircraft was dispatched and thanks to a light source Idlout was carrying, spotted him about 10:30 p.m. Friday on the floe which was now drifting out into the Northwest Passage.
They dropped him supplies including food, water, a tent, extra clothing, fuel for his stove and a locator beacon.
However, the first plan on Saturday to dispatch a rescue helicopter was called off due to mechanical problems, so a second supply-laden Hercules dropped him more equipment later that day.
On Sunday, a crew of five from Canadian Forces Base Greenwood in Nova Scotia was dispatched but their rescue attempt was stymied by high winds and snow. It was that same crew that eventually made the pickup on Monday.
By then, he had drifted about 40 kilometres out to sea.
Pudluk said his friend is "a pretty tough guy" who spends his summers in bush camps and has been "out alone a lot."
But no amount of experience could prepare him for such an ordeal.
"He said it was very scary," said Pudluk. "He didn't really know where to go because the dark was longer than the daylight."
Added to that was his fear the ice floe might start breaking up in the dark.
"He was going to be in trouble," said Pudluk. "That's what he was worrying about."
In the end, of course, Idlout was thrilled to be reunited with his wife and two young children.
"We thank the search and rescue people," said Pudluk.

Organizations: Canadian Search, RCMP

Geographic location: Nunavut, Trenton, Resolute Bay Northwest Passage Nova Scotia

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