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Tourists escape from drifting ice floe in Canadian arctic

A tourist group, including two Americans, that was stranded on a drifting ice floe in the Canadian arctic has made it back to solid ground, the tour operator said Wednesday.

But while the tourists are out of immediate danger, fog continues to hamper efforts by the Royal Canadian Air Force to pick them up. 

At least two helicopter rescue attempts have failed to recover the group, officials revealed. 

The 10 tourists and 10 guides awoke Tuesday to discover a three-mile long piece of the ice shelf on which they had bedded down had broken free and had begun to drift.

Graham Dickson of Arctic Kingdom said a change in the wind and favorable tides had pushed the three-mile long floe back towards the coast near Lancaster Sound at the entrance of the Northwest Passage.

That allowed the group – along with 10 local hunters that were also caught out by the drift - to find its way back onto safer ground.

“Everyone is fine,” Dickson said. “The break was quite extreme, but they had all the right equipment to cope with problem. We are still working on getting them out, but we hope to do it sometime later today.”

Captain Yvonne Niego of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the ice floe had floated almost five miles from the shore.

“I’m a local and I haven’t seen anything like this for a long time,” she said.

She added that it was unclear how many rescue attempts there had been, but at least two had been unsuccessful by the end of Wednesday morning.

Major Steve Neta said low lying fog in the region had prevented a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter based in Gander, Newfoundland, from reaching them Wednesday morning.

“We hope to move in to assist as soon as weather permits us to do so,” he said. “Luckily, everyone appears to be doing well.”

Earlier, Neta said that survival kits -- which include life-rafts -- had been dropped and that a second Hercules aircraft was on its way with more equipment.

"They have the right clothing," he said.

Forecasts from Environment Canada indicate the weather may well be favorable for a rescue later today and Dickson said they were exploring a number of options on how to get them out.

“The authorities have been really good so far,” he said.

“We will need a helicopter, but there may be some in a nearer than those available from the Air Force. Either way, they will be fine until we can get to them.” 

 

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