Keys to sur­vival at sea: be pre­pared and keep cool

The Compass - - OPINION -

The re­cent sur­vival of sealer, Rex Saun­ders, of St. Lu­naire who sur­vived on a pan of ice for two nights was noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle. His abil­ity to keep his cool and not panic is the num­ber one thing to do in a cri­sis.

It re­minds me of the time I got in much the same sit­u­a­tion, it hap­pened in 1974, when I was liv­ing in Deer Lake.

I de­cided to have a day out seal­ing, so my­self, my son David, who was only 14 at the time, and Nor­man Moss, Sr., a man whom I spent a lot of time fish­ing and hunt­ing with. We left Deer Lake on Fri­day evening with my 16-foot speed­boat in tow and went to Brighton. We spent the night in the camper and got up next morn­ing and went out on the wa­ter. The wind was light east­erly blow­ing on land with loose ice. In the af­ter­noon there was a string of ice pans mov­ing in Long Tickle. We came in on the Brighton side of the ice but de­cided to go through the ice and look for seals on the other side. Af­ter trav­el­ing so far on that side, I saw the ice was very close to land and de­cided to make a run through to get to open wa­ter on the other side. Shortly af­ter en­ter­ing the ice, it struck land at a point called Pil­ley’s Head on Pil­ley’s Is­land and when ice is run­ning on land it doesn’t take long to tighten up. As soon as that hap­pened I ran the boat up on a pan of ice and was there all Satur­day night, Sun­day and Sun­day night. As soon as we got jammed in ice, my hunt­ing part­ner who was much older than me, said, and I can still hear him now:“I knew this was go­ing to hap­pen some day.”

The rea­son for that state­ment was I am the type of per­son who goes the limit and some­times you get caught. There are two rea­sons I am here to­day to tell the story.

The first is I had a small house on the boat, as I al­ways had for the sim­ple rea­son, if you are out on the ocean in bad weather you have a place of shel­ter and in this case it saved our lives.

The wind was east­erly and cold and foggy. We spent most of our time in this space and had a small propane stove for cook­ing and heat.

By Sun­day our food was scarce hav­ing left a loaf of bread in the camper, but we ra­tioned it and thawed snow to make tea, the tea bags were scarce and boiled over many times.

On Sun­day there were peo­ple out looking for us. We saw a long­liner owned by Dick Lush of Tri­ton trim­ming the edge of the ice, but they couldn’t see us be­cause we were in un­der the land, and it was very foggy.

Af­ter dark Sun­day night, the fog lifted and we could see some lights in Brighton, so I used a trick my grand­fa­ther taught me. I put a sausage can on the roof of the house with some gas in it and lit it and it burned like a can­dle. It wasn’t very long be­fore we heard gun­shots from Brighton. Peo­ple were keep­ing watch and we knew we were seen, while there was noth­ing that could be done in the dark. There were no he­li­copters around in those days, but we knew there would be a res­cue at­tempted in the morn­ing.

We were get­ting wor­ried by that time be­cause the pres­sure on the ice was grad­u­ally break­ing up on land and it was drift­ing closer to the shore. With a moderate sea on, we would have had trou­ble get­ting ashore and if we had we would not have any­where to go be­cause of the high icy cliffs.

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