Tourists stranded on Arctic ice floe make it to shore, rescued by air

ARCTIC BAY, Nunavut – Some 20 tourists and their guides who had been stranded on an ice floe off Baffin Island in Nunavut were all airlifted to safety Wednesday night after spending much of the day waiting to be rescued.

The tourists, who were with Arctic Kingdom Expeditions, all managed to get off the floe when it floated close to shore early Wednesday. The group then spent the day waiting to be picked up by military crews.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., said the group was transported to the Nunavut community of Arctic Bay Wednesday evening in two military helicopters.

“Everyone is safe. No injuries,” said RCMP Cpl. Yvonne Niego, who added that the weather in the area had been difficult.

The tour group — made up of Canadians, Americans, an Australian and someone from Jordan — was stranded when a 50-kilometre long slab of ice broke away from shore between Monday night and early Tuesday and floated out to sea.

Ten whale hunters were also on the floe but had managed to scramble off earlier when their end floated close to land.

Arctic Kingdom Expeditions president Graham Dickson said the ice floe probably broke away because of a strong tide and wind.

“We believe it was caused in part due to the super moon together with very strong winds.”

He said the floe was so large no one in the tour group was ever in any danger. The tourists were properly outfitted for the conditions.

“It was effectively a floating ice island,” he said.

“They actually watched movies and had presentations and waited as the tides changed and the winds changed. They were able by snowmobile to get back to land as the natural condition reversed.”