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Hunters become sailors after ice breaks away from shore and drifts for two days

CORAL HARBOUR, Nunavut — Eight hunters in Nunavut have been airlifted to safety after unexpectedly becoming sailors when they got stranded on a drifting sheet of ice.

Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Steve Neta says the men were hunting near the shore at Coral Harbour, which is on Southampton Island, on Friday when the ice they were on broke away.

Neta says local volunteers tried to reach them, but they drifted too far, so the Nunavut Emergency Measures Organization called the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont.

An RCAF Hercules airplane from 17 Wing in Winnipeg arrived at the scene on Saturday evening and dropped radios, survival supplies and inflatable boats to the men.

Neta says the hunters were already well-equipped for the elements, and even had a radio beacon that allowed rescuers to accurately track their location.

A Cormorant helicopter from 14 Wing in Greenwood, NS, hoisted the men aboard on Sunday and flew everyone back to Coral Harbour.

“They were well-prepared to begin with, which is always good because it never became an emergency where someone was in distress,” said Neta, speaking from Winnipeg.

“Everyone was in good condition — good spirits.”

Neta said he didn’t know the size of the ice pan, but said it broke up somewhat over the two days the hunters were on it.

At the time of the rescue, the group was 55 kilometres south of Coral Harbour, and about 27 kilometres from the nearest shore.

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