Canadian soldiers in bear country spend night in cave...

Mr Happy

Soldiers missing on Baffin Island found safe
Polar bears common in area where pair disappeared


PANGNIRTUNG, Nunavut — The Canadian Forces will investigate what led to two soldiers going missing Monday evening in rugged polar bear country on Baffin Island during military exercises.

A pair of unarmed soldiers were found safe and in good condition early today after an overnight adventure.

A Griffin helicopter sighted the pair jumping up and down on a rock and they were airlifted back to the community of Pangnirtung. They were described as having mild hypothermia, with slurred speech and deep fatigue.

Corp. Brian Thomas, 43, a communications specialist, said he was not scared but was apprehensive about his night on the tundra. He described the evening as "wet, cold and disorienting."

"It all looks the same… Just straight choppy rock as far as you can see."

Thomas is originally from Cornwall, Ont., but now lives at Petawawa with his wife. He is with the 427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron.

The second soldier was identified by the military as Master Corp. Mike Laforce.

A military spokesman said the pair was cold but fine. They were missing for about 11 hours.

They had been dropped off by helicopter about three kilometres outside of the community Monday with some communications equipment.

They said they would walk back to town when bad weather grounded the choppers, but the soldiers failed to show up.

Polar bears are known to frequent the region and the barren tundra offered little protection from the howling winds and near-zero-degree temperatures.

The men, who had no survival equipment, were wearing only Gortex camouflage gear and rain jackets.

Thomas said they wandered blindly in the fog for more than three hours before eventually camping out in a cave.

In order to survive, Thomas said the two soldiers interlaced their legs to share body heat and stayed awake, waiting for the sunrise.

The two soldiers walked a short distance drenched from the overnight snow, before seeing the helicopter in the air.

"There's nobody at fault," Thomas said of the mishap. "It's unpredictable. I'm just glad it's done."

The internal investigation will examine how the soldiers were lost in the fog.

Col. Norman Couturier, commander of the military section handling northern affairs, said that in the future the military will ensure that all troops are properly equipped.

The soldiers, taking part in a landmark military exercise called Operation Narwhal, were to put some communications equipment into place.

The equipment was for simulation missions scheduled for later this week, said Capt. Joe Frey, an army media liaison officer.

Operation Narwhal, the largest Canadian Arctic military exercise of modern times, has been plagued with bad weather and bad luck since it began in mid-August.

Last week, the weather forced two Twin Otter planes destined for Pangnirtung to turn back while Griffin helicopters were grounded in Iqaluit.

In addition, a Sea King helicopter was grounded after its engine caught fire. There were no injuries, but the helicopter was put out of commission until replacement parts arrived.

Military officials have said they chose Pangnirtung as the site for the exercise specifically because the mountainous region would present challenges to the soldiers.

Despite numerous setbacks throughout the exercise, Couturier called Operation Narwhal "a success."

"This exercise has demonstrated we do have the capacity to launch and sustain an exercise in the North," Couturier said.
So, the Canadian press is worse than the British, and the troops in bear country hid in a cave... Canadian Military promises it will never happan again..
looking at it in another way, the soldiers used survival skills and common sense by staying in a cave rather staying out in the fog and possibly end up in the icy water or eaten by the Bears.
re equipment , a GPS would have made a lot of difference
In that part of the world a compass is useless. Even navigation by the stars is difficult due to being so far north. They did the right thing.

Mr Happy

Bollocks lads, going anywhere by air expecting an air pick up with no kit is a bone error, and if you were not such REMFs you'd know that.
I concur - not terribly bright going out for walkies in Polar Bear country. When I did my winter indoc course in the CF, proper gear, food and bags of rounds were the order of the day. Those bears are awfully big and VERY fast - and can smell food miles away. Lucky chaps indeed...

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