Stranded Tourists Spend Two Days Adrift On Arctic Ice Floe

by Kraig Becker

Adventure travelers visiting an isolated island in northern Canada got more then they bargained for earlier this week when they found themselves stranded on an ice floe and adrift in the Arctic Ocean. The 20 or so tourists, who were traveling with a company called Arctic Kingdoms at the time, spent two days at the mercy of the winds and ocean currents before they were able to scramble off the ice and back onto dry land. Canadian rescue teams are now waiting for weather to improve to bring them home.The group traveled to the remote and wild Baffin Island as part of an organized tour to spot a variety of wildlife in its natural habitat. They had spent the previous few days watching polar bears, seals, narwhal and other creatures unique to the area while camping on a large chunk of ice that extended three miles out into the Arctic Ocean. Sometime late Monday evening or early Tuesday morning, unbeknownst to the tourists, the ice detached itself from land and started to drift with the current.  By the time they realized what had happened, the ice floe had already moved far enough away from land that it was impossible for them to scramble to shore.

After being alerted to the situation, a Canadian C-130 cargo plane was dispatched to drop emergency supplies for the stranded travelers. That gear included large rubber life rafts and other survival equipment that they could use incase the situation moved from bad to worse. Before departing, Arctic Kingdoms outfitted the group with tents, food and supplies for their stay, so for the most part they were well equipped for their arctic adventure.

Yesterday helicopters were sent to the ice floe in an attempt to rescue the castaways but foul weather stymied two separate attempts to retrieve them. That poor conditions did bring favorable winds however and as the day progressed the ice was pushed back towards shore. Eventually they were close enough that they could use the life rafts to paddle back to dry land on the shores of Baffin. As of this writing, they are still there, waiting for someone to pick them up and return them to civilization.

A lot of travel companies will promise you a once in a lifetime adventure, but I’m not sure that these particular travelers had that in mind when then signed up for this trip.

[Photo Credit: AFP/Getty]