Russian pilot fights off cold, polar bears after chopper crashes into Arctic Ocean
Published Monday, July 27, 2015 7:50AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 27, 2015 9:33PM EDT
A Russian pilot rescued from an ice floe more than 30 hours after his helicopter crashed into the frigid Arctic Ocean on Saturday says he fought off two enemies: the cold and the polar bears.
Sergey Ananov, a sociologist and journalist, was attempting to circumnavigate the Arctic Circle in a two-seater Robinson R22 helicopter when a gear belt broke about half-way through his flight from Iqaluit to Greenland, he says.
The pilot told CTV’s Katie Simpson that he lost altitude for about three minutes before ditching in the Davis Strait, approximately 50 metres from a hunk of ice.
Ananov managed to grab his life raft, but the chopper sunk before he could get anything else.
After swimming to the ice and hauling himself up, he realized how cold it was.
“I was trembling from the very first minute of my stay on the ice,” he says. His clothes were soaking wet.
Then, the first of three polar bears arrived, a moment Ananov describes as “terrifying.”
“I had my strategy,” he says. “I was hiding under my life raft (and) when they were very, very close I just jumped out of my raft.”
“I (understood) I must do something very angry and frightening,” he says, “so I roared at them, I put up my hands and I chased them.”
Another apparent enemy was fog.
“At some point I was losing hope because I thought this fog will never disappear,” he says.
But late Sunday night, the fog cleared.
Ananov heard a helicopter above him and saw a light in the distance.
“Here I said, ‘Okay this is my last chance and the last flare,’” he added.
“They noticed the very last seconds of the flare.”
Ananov was brought aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ship Pierre Radisson, where he was warmed up, given medical attention and treated to a “brilliant supper.”
He thanked the coast guard for “a tremendous job.”
He was not injured.
Ananov said over the phone from Iqaluit that his current attempt at circumnavigating the Arctic Circle is over, but he plans to eventually try again with a new helicopter.
Rear Admiral John Newton, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, told reporters Monday morning that flying that far north is risky.
"When we fly our big Cormorant search and rescue, multi-engine helicopters over the ocean, we fly a Hercules (plane) on top to make sure our helicopter is safe," he said.
Newton said that “the coast guard should be proud of what they achieved today.”
A fundraising page has been set up on GoFundMe.com to help Ananov raise money to travel to a Russian consulate.
The Russian Embassy said it would help Ananov return home to Russia after he lost all of his documents and passport.
With files from CTV Atlantic, CTV’s Katie Simpson and The Canadian Press