SOS message – VYØV East Pen Island, Nunavut



31st March 2010 0219utc.

1) Saw this spot about 0330z and went to 10107.5.  VY0V was on frequency, asking for help. Others had marginal copy so I joined and had several QSO’s with Cezar VY0V between.  0330-0500z. He said that rain and wind was fierce, visibility poor, he had no water, no fire, no gas for generator, battery getting low, and native guide had abandoned him 38 hours ago.  He was worried and seemed delirious, rambling on while running down his battery. I got Cezar to give me his GPS coordinates 56″ 44.854 N 88″ 37.812 W and relayed this to Ralph VE7XF who said Frank VE7DP was working to get a rescue and they passed it on to a rescue team coordinator by phone who will get it to them by sat phone next comm they have.  The rescue team supposedly left Fort Severn on a 7/8 hour trek at 4pm EDT which would have been 3PM CDT, so they should have been near him by 10-11PM CDT or 03-0400z.  Cezar said at 0500z he had low visibility and no contact with the rescue team yet.  Told Cezar to conserve battery, get some sleep and try 10107.5 again at 1100z just before his sunrise at 1130z if not rescued.  Later Ralph VE7XF informed me that guys that went to try to get Cezar today had to turn back according to VE7DP, as their ski doo kept bogging down due to the rise in temp in the area.  I tried 10107.5 at 1100 and 1130z  and got no reply from VY0V.  So I started looking on the internet for RCMP phone numbers.  I called RCMP’s Ontario Division HQ 24/7 number at (519) 640-7267.  At 11:45z they patched me through to Jason at the North Bay Comm Center of the Ontario Provincial Police (705) 495-7034.  He said that the Fist Nations Policing team from Fort Severn was working on the rescue and that they were in communication
with North Bay Comm Center.  He said would relay any new information to me for broadcast to the concerned amateur radio community.  At 1215z Jason called me to say that the rescue team hads a visual sighting of Cezar’s
location and should be arriving at his location shortly.  I continue to monitor 10107.5 and 7007.  Let’s hope for a positive outcome.

Skip Cameron W5GAI
Austin, TX

2) At 5:05 CDT/2205z I spoke with Ralph VE7XF who said that last QSO with Cezar he has sighted the rescue team and thought they would reach him within a half hour. If he can get on the radio he will update on 14260 or 7007. Ralph said that the twin otter was delayed from its planned 5pm departure from Fort Severn, and if the rescue team does not arrive soon, the plane’s ETA to Cezar was 7:30 PM local.

At 4:18 CDT/2118z, I talked by phone to Renee at North Bay Comm Center She said RCMP is the lead on the rescue, and she tried but could not raise anyone at Ft. Severn at this time, and she had no new status to relay.  She repeated that the ground team from 4pm yesterday’s departure from Ft. Severn is still searching, and they had said it was 20 hours from Fort Severn to his GPS coordinates, and there were no reports of Cezar yet.  She still could not provide the exact location coordinates of this ground team. With 120km (Cezar’s estimate from Ft. Severn to East Pen) in 20 hours, that’s 6km/hour or about 3.7mph, which seems like walking speed, not snow mobile speed. If the rescue team left at 3PM local yesterday, after 20 hours they would be arriving there by 11AM today. Perhaps they stopped to rest. I am monitoring 14260 and 7007 for any further news.

Skip W5GAI

3) At 9:45PM CDT/0245z April 2, I spoke by phone with Cezar VY0V/VE3LYC’s wife Lucy.
Lucy had convinced RCMP that an air rescue was needed because the ground team was way overdue. She said the 2 man ground rescue team arrived (after 27 hours) about the same time the twin otter plane did around 8PM local. Cezar called Lucy upon arrival back in Fort Severn, about 120km from East Pen Is. NA-231. One of the two guides who took Cezar to the island was aboard the plane to assist in exact location. He was one of the two who abandoned Cezar approximately 8am on Tuesday, saying they had business back in the village of Ft. Severn and would return. Cezar put out his SOS for Rescue Wednesday afternoon after they didn’t return after 38 hours and he had run out of generator fuel, had no fire, battery running low for radio, rain and wind howling.
A good ending to a really tense time!

Skip W5GAI

This is the final version from Cezar VE3LYC:-

Apr 1, 8 UTC: Here is a BRIEF account of VY0V. Left the village at 5:15 pm on Mar 28 (sunset at 8 pm) with one guide – Tommy, and arrived to East Pen at 2:15 am. It took us 9 hours to travel 120 km. The locals build the tents to resist very high winds, but this requires the use of trees. Since there wasn’t room for them in the sled, had to go back to the tree line and cut them. It took about 3 hours to return to the island and at least another hour to finish the camp. Wind picked up very soon from the E, and increased steadily. The mast was extremely bent and when I was running EU #8 it broke in three sections. While ‘thinking’ what to do with the little variety of things we had with us, I placed the antenna on the tent, with the radials less than a foot from the ground – didn’t have much wood for support. I had no problem to work NA, and ever some stations outside NA, but I knew that it wasn’t doing a decent job. Later in the day cut splinters from a piece of plywood and supported the three sections by tieing them up with wire and rope. We did an excellent job, even if the new mast was extremely heavy, so the second day of operation was rewarding. Late morning, Tommy told me that another guide will replace him and is on the way, so he will leave. I wasn’t happy but not that worried, since another guide was supposed to join me in several hours. Not only that Tommy’s departure was against our plan, but wasn’t planed well. The second guide never made it to East Pen, presumably his skidoo died on him and had to return, and so the supplies needed never arrived! After so many trips up north, I knew that polar bears are territorial and curious, but rarely attack humans who mind their business, and virtually never inside the tent. Given also the fact that this was not their season, the bears were the least on my mind. The problem was that it was impossible for me to take the mast down and put it up by myself in order to change the bands. I needed another person. Also, I was only left with little gas for the generator, as new guide was supposed to refuel the camp! As the evening set in, the wind picked up and I was very afraid that the mast will break again, which will be pretty much the end of working outside NA. Consequently, with great effort I brought it down in the wind and fixed it against the wood poles of the tent for increased resistance – also, I could lean it now easily to change the bands. Working the radio kept my thoughts focused on the propagation and the pile-ups, nothing else. Not using the night bands allowed me to sleep more, which helped. Next day though, I imagined that the guide will appear before nightfall but he didn’t. The rain poured intensely, followed by very strong winds, this time from W. As the island is formed of sand banks, I could find it everywhere, including the snow. I had enough of assurances that the guide will soon arrive, never to materialize. Worse, I was told that the rivers and lakes along the word are rapidly thowing, which led to the prospect of being stuck there for a long time! Without supplies, with no scope on the island, and with the prospect of an agonizingly slow search, A little over 36 hours after I remained alone on the island, I decided that a Search & Rescue mission will be required, and launched a distress call. It took the land team of two a total of 26 hours to reach me at 6:30 pm. Meanwhile, my wife pushed and obtained clearance from the Government for an official air mission. However, Tommy must have felt responsible and brought in a friend of him with a plane, who landed on the island at 7pm and extracted me. The ride back to Fort Severn was actually fantastic, just at the sun was setting, as I could see hundreds of small and large rivers thowing.

My guide’s unilateral decision to leave me alone on the island cannot earn him good points with me. I needed him not only to keep me safe, but also to help me out. However, I must confess that he was incredibly unlucky. Nobody in Ft. Severn remembers in their lifetime such an amazingly fast passage from winter to spring. In a matter of three days only, everything went from solidly frozed to thow!

At this time, my thoughts are with the land team, as it will take them (Andrew and James) two days to get back to their village!

Big thanks to all hams who spent numerous hours on the bands on Apr 1 to take my messages further, relay feedback, and keep me company: VE7DP, K1BG, W5GAI, VE7XF, W3HQ, N9NS, VE7WEB. I am indebted to many others who worked hard to coordinate a prompt rescue mission, including my wife Lucia, Debbie, Jason, and last – but not least, Tommy. Finally, I would like to thank all of you who thought of me and sent me messages in this eventful day. I will reply to each of them as soon as possible.

(Tnx to Bernie at Daily DX for the updates).

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Charles M0OXO

I was born in the 1960’s and have lived all my life in the Coal Mining Town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Northern England. My parents were all from this area of Yorkshire and my father worked in the main Industry of the local Collieries as a face worker. I have been married to my wife Debbie for 35+ years and we have two children and two grandchildren.

I have been licensed for around 20 years after my interest was re-kindled when I retired from my role as a Police Officer within South Yorkshire Police Force. The latter few years were spent as Radio Operator in the Force Operations Control Room at Sheffield, before my career ended.

IOTA chasing is (and always has been) my real passion, as climbing the ladder to reach Honour Roll status was always my main aim. The 1000 Islands Trophy is still out of reach but I am heading in the right direction. I am currently a Board Member of IOTA Ltd and IREF.

In my free time I am a keen Photographer of Wildlife, Aviation, (anything really) but the QSL Manager role is my main passion within Ham Radio.