ELY – A solo canoeist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is fortunate to be alive after he was rescued Saturday when the St. Louis County Rescue Squad and Minnesota Department of …
ELY – A solo canoeist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is fortunate to be alive after he was rescued Saturday when the St. Louis County Rescue Squad and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources responded to his electronic distress call.
According to Lt. Nate Skelton, of the County Sheriff Department, deputies took a call at about 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 from an Ely area outfitter that had received an SOS device activation from one of its clients. The adventurer had been dropped off earlier in the day and was canoeing solo into Nina-Moose Lake off the Echo Trail. The area received several inches of wet snow throughout the day.
The unidentified man, age 34, was at a campsite on Nina-Moose Lake, about 20 miles north of Ely. He sent an emergency signal just before 5 p.m. The canoeist activated his SOS device and stated, “Help Wet and Cold,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Rescue personnel in a square-stern canoe with an outboard motor arrived at Nina-Moose Lake at about 8 p.m. After a short search the party was located, wet and cold, near his last known location.
“It was as dark as I’ve ever seen it out there,” said DNR Conservation Officer Sean Williams. “You couldn’t see anything. It was snowing heavily, fog was moving in, and there was ice on the lake. We had to break through ice to get to the middle of the lake, and when we made it to the middle it was so dark we had to use a GPS to find the shore and his campsite.”
When rescuers arrived at his campsite, a rescue squad member applied heat pads to the man’s core to begin warming him. Williams said the man was experiencing severe hypothermia.
Rescuers got him into warmer gear and built a fire, which he sat near for about 90 minutes while wrapped in a wool blanket. When the man was sufficiently warm, rescue personnel loaded him into the boat and headed back to their entry point. Other members of the rescue squad met them at the final portage and helped get the man out of the wilderness and to medical attention. He was treated for exposure. No injuries were reported and the man was in good health upon return to the landing.
The man’s decision to rent emergency communications equipment likely saved his life.
“Had we not gotten there when we did, I don’t know that he would have made it through the night,” Williams said. “Luckily he had the communications equipment and wasn’t afraid to use it once he knew he was in trouble.”
The sheriff’s office issued a reminder to all who venture into the BWCA to prepare for all conditions, to not take any unnecessary risks, leave an itinerary of your travel plan, and travel with a GPS or SOS device if possible in case of emergencies.