Boaters saved using Inuktitut radio

Year-old Coast Guard service reached hunter, who spotted canoe

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DENISE RIDEOUT

An Inuktitut-language emergency service provided by the Coast Guard in Nunavut may have saved the lives of three missing boaters this week.

On Monday morning, Coast Guard officials learned that a canoe and its three passengers were about 12 hours overdue. Family members of the three Iqaluit residents called Nunavut Emergency Services to say the boaters had been expected back in town the night before.

Dan Nickle, the Coast Guard’s officer in charge, said officers took advantage of the Inuktitut radio service, and an Inuktitut-speaking radio operator announced that a green and blue 22-foot canoe outfitted with an outboard motor had broken down in the waters around Iqaluit.

The messages, broadcast over the hunter-and-trapper frequencies and CB radios, targeted unilingual Inuit who may have been out in their boats and could help in the search.

And they were in luck.

“Not long after that we got a call from one of the local hunters, Johnny Kolola, that he had spotted the vessel and he called it in on the Inuktitut radio service,” Nickle said.

Kolola then towed in the canoe, which had drifted near an area called Amialigaqtaliminiq, about 30 miles south of town.

“It’s quite possible the search would have been a lot longer if it hadn’t been broadcast in Inuktitut,” Nickle said.

The Inuktitut radio, officially called the South Baffin Coast Guard radio service, was first introduced last year. Radio operators are on the air from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, broadcasting weather and ice conditions and listening and sending out calls for help.

Nickle said radio operators put out emergency calls about the missing boaters just before 10 a.m. on Monday.

After receiving a call from the family of the missing boaters, Nunavut Emergency Services contacted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, who then called the Coast Guard boat Henry Larson, which was about 160 miles out in the bay.

They sent out their helicoptor to do an air search. Search and rescue personnel in Iqaluit also prepared to send up a plane with spotters when Kolola called to say that he’d found the boat.

Nickle said none of the boaters were injured.

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