North

Fog, ice and a sinking sailboat involved in 16th Arctic-based emergency of the year

The men became trapped in the ice and their vessel began to sink. They activated their emergency radio beacon and abandoned the sailboat.

2 Argentine sailors released flares to grab the attention of emergency responders

From left to right, helicopter pilot Brad Marshall, Pablo Saad, Dario Ramos, First Officer Louis Denhez, and Leading Seaman Chad LeRiche. Members of the coast guard rescued Pablo Saad and Dario Ramos in Nunavut's Bellot Strait. (Submitted by Carol Launderville)

The dramatic rescue of two Argentine sailors in Nunavut on Aug. 29 involved foggy weather, rescue flares, and a drifting piece of ice.

Pablo Saad and Dario Ramos were sailing in Nunavut's Bellot Strait when their vessel became trapped in ice and started to sink. They activated their emergency radio beacon, ditched their sailboat, and found themselves stranded on an ice floe with their inflatable life raft. 

The men were wearing one-piece snow suits, inflatable life-jackets, and insulated rubber boots. The raft "would have contained survival rations," wrote Carol Launderville, a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard, in an email.

A coast guard ship in the Bellot Strait rescued 2 stranded sailors on Friday, Aug. 29. (Canadian Coast Guard)

Launderville wrote that another adventurer on a nearby sailing vessel detected the emergency signal and advised the coast guard communicators in Iqaluit. Coast guard officers issued a mayday from Iqaluit to nearby boats and reached out to a cargo ship.

The cargo ship's crew made a "valiant effort" to reach the sailors, but couldn't get close enough because of the ice conditions, Launderville wrote. 

A military plane was flown up from southern Canada to rescue the adventurers. A coast guard icebreaker ship also headed to the boaters and the ship's helicopter was deployed to find them.

"Both men were very cold but otherwise in good health," wrote Launderville. "The stranded men used a flare to signal the helicopter which was very helpful in the fog."  

The men used a flare to signal their location to the helicopter. (Submitted by Carol Launderville)

According to a press release, the coast guard has responded to 15 "Arctic-based emergencies" that required search and rescue support this year. This rescue marked the 16th.

"Weather changes can happen quickly, especially in the Arctic," the release said. It reminded mariners to wear a life-jacket or immersion suit, and to carry extra fuel, food, and a signalling device. 

Pablo Saad did not respond to CBC's request for comment. 

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