Barrow seal hunters rescued from sea ice

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

BARROW (AP) -- Rescuers used helicopters to pluck 18 seal hunters from islands of sea ice that broke away in the Arctic Ocean offshore from Barrow Sunday afternoon.

The hunters became stranded when three large water channels suddenly broke up the ice between them and shore, Randy Crosby, director of North Slope Borough Search and Rescue, said Monday.

''Pans of ice detached from the shore-fast ice,'' Crosby said. ''It opened out there huge.''

The borough search and rescue joined forces with the Barrow volunteer Search and Rescue, which was tipped to the ordeal about 2:30 p.m. by witnesses on shore and some of the hunters who called in on marine radios.

Rescuers then set out in two borough helicopters for the two-hour effort.

''It was a beautiful day, partly cloudy but mostly sunny, 26 above zero,'' Crosby said. ''That's why so many people were out hunting.''

Pilot Price Brower said the hunters were scattered over a 5-mile stretch of shoreline. Some of the hunters were on an ice floe three miles out, Brower said.

The ice islands were large enough to land the helicopters on, Crosby said.

It took rescuers five trips to pick up the hunters, 13 snowmachines, some sleds and small skiffs. Crews used slings to transport the equipment back to town.

''It's all in a day's work for the Search and Rescue,'' Brower said Monday after the ice had started to close up again.

None of the hunters was hurt in the incident, Crosby said.

''Everyone was glad to be back on terra firma, of course,'' he said. ''But this kind of thing is something that goes with the territory around here.''

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