Family rescued after ordeal on northern Saskatchewan island

A family of four has been rescued after being stranded for three days on a cold, rocky island on Wollaston Lake in a remote part of northern Saskatchewan.

4 people spent 3 days on rocky island in Wollaston Lake

William Hansen gets a hug from his daughter Rose Hansen Tsannie. She was successfully found, with three others, after spending several days stranded in Saskatchewan's north. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)
Searchers went to several islands hoping to find the missing family. Finally, they found them close to Gow Island. (RCMP)
A family of four has been rescued after being stranded for three days on a cold, rocky island on Wollaston Lake in a remote part of northern Saskatchewan.

The family — three women and one man, all adults — left Barge Landing Oct. 21 and went out on the lake, about 650 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. When a thick fog descended, they couldn't find their way home and their boat ran out of gas.

They had a cellphone and let other family members know they were stranded on an island.

Fog hampered rescue efforts

However, it was still foggy and the phone died before they could give any information to pinpoint their location.

"It was raining, my girls were getting cold," Rose Hansen Tsannie, one of the women in the group, told CBC News Wednesday. Tsannie was with her two daughters, 25 and 16, and her brother.

"I was just worried about my girls," she said.

The search was hampered by heavy fog on Wollaston Lake. (RCMP)

After they were reported missing Oct. 23, Wollaston Lake RCMP and the Canadian Rangers from the Wollaston Lake Patrol 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, an army reserve unit, began a search.

Searchers, including people from the community who were familiar with the area, spent hours in the thick fog but had no luck after checking several islands.

Finally, on Oct. 24, the family was located safe near Gow Island in the southern part of the lake.

Family able to start fire

It was learned that they had coats, a tarp, minimal food and were able to start a fire, the RCMP said. 

Hansen Tsannie said they also found a pail, on their second day stranded, which came in handy.

"I washed it and I cooked and boiled some macaroni with bologna in there," she said.

Still, it was no picnic. The temperature got down to -7 degrees C and there was heavy freezing rain on Oct. 22.

Hansen Tsannie said they were spotted when they decided to get out on the water.

"I told my brother let's just canoe, paddle, maybe somebody will see us, so we did that," she said, adding that they spent six hours doing that and then improvised a sail for the boat. "We had two big sticks we tied it to the boat and then with a tarp we made a sail."

Wollaston Lake is the name of both the community and the body of water in the northeast part of the province. (CBC)

That was enough to get them off the island and in view of searchers.

Hansen Tsannie credits her father with giving her the survival skills she needed.

William Hansen, who was one of the searchers, told CBC News it was an important he passed on his knowledge to his daughter.

"People have to to show their kids how to survive," Hansen said. "It's good to have your kids know the lake, the bush."

The RCMP thanked everyone involved who helped bring the family home safe and sound.


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