It is a little hard to explain what happened yesterday—a bit of a miracle I would say. We woke up to discover the ice conditions in Iqaluit harbour had not changed and the wind was still not helping to blow the ice out. The situation was looking desperate and we had just about run out of options. I contacted the Coast Guard again and explained the situation. Captain Sylvain Bertrand of the CCGS Des Groseilliers agreed to help us and came to our rescue. This was no small feat for the Coast Guard.
Despite the fact that the Des Groseiliers is an icebreaker vessel, rescuing our stranded team meant bringing the ship in close to harbour on high tide with a limited time window in which to operate. Fortunately, the tide was unusually high as it was a full moon. Finally some good karma going our way! Nonetheless, it was an amazing display of expert navigation by Capt. Bertrand and his crew.
Our expedition team was well prepared for the arrival of the Des Groseilliers, since we knew we only had a three-hour window in which we had to load the expedition team and all of our gear from a barge to the Coast Guard ship, and from there onto Zodiacs for another transfer to our vessel, the Academic Ioffe. We loaded the students onto the barges and they had to remain seated as we plowed through the ice to get to the Coast Guard ship. The Coast Guard crew was excited to help out and be a part of the experience! Needless to say our expedition was in peril without them and we simply cannot thank them enough.
Our expedition team was all on board the Coast Guard ship by 10:30 p.m. and from there we had to get out of the harbour before the tide dropped. There was a narrow passage to go through but we made it out just in time. We spent the next hour moving through the ice to the Akademic Ioffe.
We finally made it to our expedition ship at 11:30 p.m. It was dark but we were under a full moon. We then used Zodiacs to transfer everything and everyone over. What an operation! We were all finally on board by 12:30 a.m. this morning and our captain and crew gave us a warm and enthusiastic welcome.
The whole experience has been almost surreal and the adventure has surely taught us something about traveling in the North—the importance of being patient and resilient while respecting the powerful and unpredictable forces of ice. Mother Nature is in control out here and we are constantly reminded that these kinds of Arctic expeditions are no easy undertaking. We also learned the importance of staying positive and keeping our energies strong. Good karma really works!