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New floating ATVs arrive in territory

Gabriel Zarate
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 2, 2009

NUNAVUT - Search and rescue crews have a new tool when operating at the most challenging times of year. Twelve communities have received new all-terrain vehicles for use in difficult snow and ice conditions.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jimmy Noble Jr. takes a new Argo Avenger out for a test drive. Afterwards he said, "I'm trying to keep from smiling." - Gabriel Zarate/NNSL photo

"I think it'll be helpful in the spring and fall when we can't boat or Ski-Doo yet," said Jimmy Akavak, Iqaluit's search-and-rescue co-ordinator. Akavak said in the spring, the slushy, muddy, sticky conditions of melting snow are difficult even for four-wheelers to travel. In the fall, the soft, powdery snow is risky for snow machines, which can be damaged by unseen rocks.

Before getting these vehicles, search and rescue operations in the slush of spring have had to operate on foot and by air. Ed Zebedee, manager of the Department of Community and Government Services' Protection Services branch, said about 40 per cent of search and rescue operations in Nunavut happen in the spring.

An Argo Avenger is an eight-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, usually running on treads around its wheels. Arviat, Cambridge Bay, Iglulik, Pond Inlet, Taloyoak, Rankin Inlet, Sanikiluaq, Pangnirtung, Kugluktuk, Iqaluit, Repulse Bay and Baker Lake have each received one of the vehicles on the sealift courtesy of Community and Government Services.

The ATVs also float, making them suitable for use in unstable ice conditions. They can be equipped with an outboard motor, but they will also move - slowly - through water just by spinning their treads.

The vehicles will be further equipped with radios and portable GPS systems, and with a detachable canopy and internal heaters, the vehicle can be a place to warm up for someone who has been stranded on the land for hours or days.

Iqaluit was the last community to get its Avenger. They have already been used in search and rescues in some of the communities.

Zebedee said the communities receiving Avengers were chosen to cover as much area as possible. For example, the unit in Iglulik will also be used for operations around Hall Beach, and the one in Taloyoak will also cover Kugaaruk and Gjoa Haven.

The 12 vehicles together cost the government $280,000, not including sealift. Zebedee said the usual market value was $30,000 apiece, but they got a deal because of the number they were buying.

The vehicles can operate on challenging terrain. During a test drive, Zebedee drove Iqaluit's Avenger up a rocky embankment beside the Nunavut Court of Justice on the way from the CGS garage on Federal Road to the wildlife office where the Avenger will be stored.

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