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Stranded caribou hunters trapped by sea ice await help

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Pierre Radisson was traveling to remote Coates Island, at the northern end of Hudson Bay in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, on Monday. Nine hunters stranded for about a week awaited help.

Capt. Jean Houde, from the Canadian Forces Base, said a Hercules aircraft spotted the group of hunters in two boats Sunday and managed to drop a radio to communicate with them.

"From the air, they explained to the people in the boats that they were pretty much surrounded by the ice," he said. "But there seemed to be one channel available to return on land to Coats Island, which is where they had just left from."

The nine people, traveling in two 24-foot aluminum boats, had been caribou hunting. They left from the town of Coral Harbour, but it was unclear whether they live in that community. The group spent a week on Coats Island, waiting out poor weather.

On Saturday, they decided to try to get home in spite of the ice danger. That's when their satellite phone ran out of power. Two hours after leaving the island, they sent a help signal from a Spot device. The group returned safely to the island Sunday night, guided by rescuers in a Hercules plane. The same plane dropped more supplies to help them through another night.

The Pierre Radisson was expected to arrive Monday morning.

After the Pierre Radisson reaches Coats Islands, the Canadian Coast Guard will decide whether to clear a path for the boat, give the hunters some fuel or to take them on board.

The icebreaker was 24 hours away when the Spot signal initially went out.