Skip to main content

20 tourists survive Canadian Arctic ice breakaway

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Map: Admiralty Inlet in the northernmost territory of Nunavut, Canada.
  • NEW: The 20 tourists have walked to safety after their ice floe drifted back toward land
  • NEW: Helicopters are standing by to take them to a base
  • The group was trapped on a chunk of ice in the Canadian Arctic
  • The tourists, including two Americans, received air-dropped survival kits that included rafts

(CNN) -- A group of 20 tourists, including two Americans, who were trapped at sea on a drifting ice floe in the Canadian Arctic are now safe after a stroke of luck.

Their sheet of ice bumped into another one early Wednesday, the Canadian coast guard said. The second ice floe was touching land.

"They were able to walk from one ice floe to the other to land," marine coordinator Christian Cafiti said. "Everyone is safe and sound."

A rescue plane dropped survival kits onto the 3½-square-mile frozen sheet Tuesday, after the expedition alerted authorities to their plight. The kits included satellite phones, inflatable rafts and food rations.

The plane kept an eye on them while they waited for helicopters to arrive.

When the copters arrived early Wednesday, bad weather prevented them from hoisting the group on board. They are standing by to airlift them to an Arctic station.

"We are having regular conversations with them through satellite phone," Cafiti said.

The tourists do not appear to be in danger of exposure. They are dressed warmly and have been able to remain dry.

Camping surprise

The tourists were camping on the ice when the frozen sheet -- three times the size of New York City's Central Park -- broke free early Tuesday, carried off by the tide.

"Ice breaking off is a very common thing at this time of year," Canadian air force spokesman Steven Neta said.

The floe drifted two miles away from land and appeared to start to crumble, Neta said. Had it fallen apart, the three rubber rafts were more than large enough to hold the whole group.

The cold also was not too harsh. Even that far north, daytime highs in June often rise well above freezing.

More than 220 rescued from ice floes off Latvian coast

CNN's Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:28 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
With the discovery of debris from the AirAsia plane, investigators move closer to discovering what happened. What are the key questions, and what comes next?
updated 11:40 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
The growth of AirAsia has been a regional aviation success story. The reason behind the loss of Flight QZ 8501 will be key to whether passengers start to shun it, says Alan Khee-Jin Tan.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
They say there are no stupid questions -- but are there? How about, "Do you speak African?"
updated 9:39 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
The year of outrage also applies to China's Internet users in 2014.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
One man swims among sharks without the protection of a cage to make studio-quality, intimate photos of the sea creatures.
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Using a technology that has been around for 130 years, a company called Pavegen hopes to create electricity from everyday human activities.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 7:45 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Gone are the days of grainy phone images with the resolution of a poor imitation Monet.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
"The year in pictures" treks across the globe, looking back on the events that shaped 2014.
updated 11:07 AM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.