Tourists stranded on ice floe rescued after days at sea

By CAROLINE LEE,  |  June 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM
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A group of 20 tourists camping on an ice floe were taken out to sea for days before being rescued.

The tourists set up site on a floe just north of Arctic Bay, Nunavut, as part of a tour with Arctic Kingdom. The company regularly takes tourists out to the ice to camp near whale and polar bear migrations. The particular floe was between 5 and 10 feet thick and was more than three times the size of Central Park.

The group was from the U.S., Jordan, France and Australia.

Arctic Kingdom's chief expedition officer Graham Dickson said the supermoon was partly to blame.

"What was unique right now is there was a supermoon a couple of days ago. There was a very large tide that combined with a strong wind from the South," Dickson said.

"As a result, we believe it raised a lot of ice with the tide and then the wind pushed some very large ice inlets -- as much as 30 miles in size -- out away from the shore."

The group had planned to stay at the campsite for a week, so they had the right survival equipment for the weather, including heated tents, food and cooking equipment. The Royal Canadian Air Force dropped survival kits to supplement what they already had, including satellite phones to stay in contact with the rescue team.

The wind switched directions Tuesday, which bumped the ice floe into land. All of the tourists were able to make it onto land safely, but are still in a remote area. The plan is to pick them up via helicopter and transport them to a nearby town once fog in the area clears.

Having ice that large break off is something Dickson has never seen.

"The idea that a 30-mile section would move all at once is extremely [unusual] ... it's the first time in 14 years of running trips that that happened."

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