Federal and territorial partners come together to save lives

What started out as a routine work week for Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Arctic Operations, quickly changed when a distress call was issued on Monday, September 21, 2015 by the fishing vessel (F/V) Atlantic Charger. Nine persons were onboard the vessel when it began taking on water. The crew donned their survival suits and abandoned ship for their life raft, in rough seas and bad weather. That is when the Search and Rescue (SAR) system kicked into high gear to respond.

Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centre in Iqaluit helped issue a mayday call as requested by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax. Moments later, the CCGS Des Groseilliers was tasked and several vessels of opportunity responded while the Department of National Defence (DND) coordinated the overall response and provided aerial support to the rescue. In the end, all 9 persons onboard were eventually rescued by the Pâmiut, a research vessel from Greenland, before being transferred to another fishing vessel which returned them to their families and friends. However, while these 9 fishermen were pulled from the water, it turns out that the week was far from over.

On Wednesday, September 23, a second Arctic SAR case involving two overdue hunters was launched in the area of Kangilo Fiord, Nunavut. Once again a number of Canadian Forces aircraft were tasked. Once again, the crew of the CCGS Des Groseilliers was called into action. Shortly after leaving the flight deck on Thursday morning, the helicopter from the Des Groseilliers located the missing hunters and was able to bring them safely aboard the icebreaker. The hunters were returned to their community late Thursday, September 24, to a crowd of approximately 40 gathered at the shore to welcome home their loved ones – tears of joy evident on their happy faces. There is no better and more satisfying end to a SAR case than to see this type of reunion. But as luck would have it, our week was not quite done.

Later on Wednesday evening, a third SAR case was in play in Nunavut, this time involving four overdue hunters. The call was received by JRCC Trenton and both air and marine assets were again tasked. CCGS Pierre Radisson and its helicopter assisted throughout the day Thursday in the search and rescue mission for beluga hunters from the community of Repulse Bay. The coordinated response from DND and CCG saw a military Hercules locate the group, followed by the CCG helicopter arriving on scene. All four hunters were in good condition. A local SAR group arrived to escort the hunting party safely home.

Needless to say that this week has been difficult, but yet rewarding for all the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard, and for all those who work with our Federal Search and Rescue partners. The Coast Guard is very proud of its role in each of these cases; each ending by bringing families together.

The local community of Pangnirtung was so appreciative of the Coast Guard’s efforts in bringing their families together; they extended an invitation for us to join them for tea and biscuits in celebration. Thankfully, arrangements could be made for Captain Michel Dufresne, Commanding Officer of the CCGS Des Groseilliers, to join in the celebration.

Response tweet to Pangnirtung community that Captain Dufresne from CCGS Des Groseilliers would attend their event

“It’s a nice ending story.” stated Captain Dufresne. “It gives us a really good feeling about what we do here.”