Lost on the land
Rankin man spends 14 hours on sea ice

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Mar 29/00) - Being well prepared may have saved the life of a Rankin Inlet man caught on the land when a blizzard hit the region early last week.

Newly Utman and Theophile Panika, both of Rankin Inlet, left the hamlet by snowmachine for Whale Cove early in the afternoon of Monday, March 20.

The two men were each pulling komatiks loaded with gear for work in Whale.

Shortly after leaving, a blizzard swept across the region and hit the two men while on the Whale Cove trail.

Local search and rescue (SAR) co-ordinator David Ningeongan says Utman and Panika lost the trail in blowing snow.

He says the two men were zig-zagging back and forth trying to relocate the trail when Panika realized Utman wasn't with him anymore.

"Once he realized that, he marked where the GPS (global positioning system) location was," says Ningeongan.

"When he couldn't find Utman, he headed back to Rankin."

SAR chairperson Jack Kabvitok was notified shortly after Panika's return to Rankin and phoned Ningeongan at about 6:30 p.m.

The Department of Community Government and Transportation's Shawn Maley quickly obtained a task number from the Emergency Measures Office's headquarters in Iqaluit and the SAR mission was under way.

Through talking with Panika, SAR members were aware Utman was well supplied with a sleeping bag, food, caribou skins, tarp and box on his sled. He also had oxygen and welding equipment with him.

Ningeongan says the first SAR group of five volunteers left Rankin shortly after midnight.

A bombardier was dispatched at about 2 a.m. on Tuesday and two more volunteers left on snowmachines shortly after that.

"The last two to leave -- Harry Ittinuar and Mathew Noah -- found him about 6:30 a.m.," says Ningeongan.

"He was covered up in the back of his komatik on the sea ice south of Barrier Island.

"When he heard the Ski-Doos approaching, he got out and waved them in and let them know he was OK.

"He had the gear to provide adequate shelter and was found in totally healthy condition. The only problem was the clutch on his machine was frozen from being wet, so they had to leave the machine out there and return for it later."