Two Pilots Rescued From Arctic Ice Floe
It was a night flight, across a cold stretch of the Arctic so empty and dark that the two ferry pilots didn't know for sure if there was land or water or ice beneath them. But when both engines on their Cessna 337 Skymaster failed on Sunday night, just south of Baffin Island in the north Atlantic, they had little choice but to radio for help, aim for the surface and hope for the best. The airplane came to rest in the water, with one wing resting on an ice floe, and the two scrambled out of the windows onto the ice just before the airplane filled with water and sank -- taking with it their life raft and emergency gear. They were wearing their survival suits, a precaution that likely saved their lives. Soon they heard search planes overhead, but with no flare guns or flashlights to signal them, the aircraft flew right by. "We were on this ice sheet not having a clue if it would support our weight, hoping to death that it would," Oliver Edwards-Neil, 25, an Australian living in Sweden, told the Sydney Morning Herald. With no food or water, no shelter, and nowhere to sit, Edwards-Neil and his flying partner, Troels Hansen, 45, a Dane who also lives in Sweden, spent the long Arctic night standing on the ice and shivering as temperatures fell to about 4 degrees below Zero. After more than 12 hours, when the sun crept above the horizon, the pair spotted land in the distance and began to head for it, hopping from ice floe to ice floe and hoping to escape the notice of polar bears, when the crew of a shrimp boat, which had been fishing 180 miles away, turned up to rescue them. "They were happy to see the boat," ship captain Bo Mortensen told the local media. "They were a little bit frostbitten on the feet, but they were in good shape." The Toronto Globe & Mail has a photo of the two lost pilots taken from the deck of the rescue ship that simply must be seen; click here to view it.
We can't tell for sure, but we're betting there were big smiles of relief, and maybe a few tears, on both of those faces. The pilots had taken off in Labrador and were on their way to Europe. The shrimp boat Atlantic Enterprise, based in Nova Scotia, traveled all night at maximum speed to reach the pair after receiving the mayday call.