A true (Pre)Christmas fairy tale | Polarjournal
The icebreaker “Alexander Sannikov” happened to be in the area of the missing fishermen and discovered them on an ice floe after two hours of searching. (Picture: Gazprom Neft)

Two fishermen from the Arctic settlement of Antipayuta on the Yamal Peninsula were riding their snowscooters on the frozen sea ice in the Gulf of Ob just before Christmas when the ice collapsed under their vehicles. With a lot of luck, the two were able to save themselves on a large ice floe, but were then stranded and defenceless against the elements.

The “miraculous” rescue undoubtedly saved the lives of the two fishermen when they were discovered by the icebreaker “Alexander Sannikov”, which was part of a large search and rescue mission. (Picture: Gazprom Neft)

They drifted with the ice floe for 24 hours, exposed to temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius, according to local media. The men managed to send an SOS signal, but it was impossible to pinpoint their exact location, which meant rescuers searching for them had to cover a wide area. The rescue mission turned into a search for the ‘needle in the haystack’.

In fact, the search parties covered an area the size of Switzerland to locate the missing fishermen. By chance, the icebreaker “Alexander Sannikov” was in the area. The crew of the icebreaker heard of the emergency and joined the search operation for the fishermen and discovered the two men ‘not a moment too soon’. Their chances of being rescued were next to impossible,” said a representative of Gazprom Neft, owner of the icebreaker. When the icebreaker crew joined the search with a huge searchlight and night sights, the men were found in just over two hours.

Their chances of rescue were almost nil, as the area of the Gulf of Ob is 44,500 square kilometres, which is about the size of Switzerland. After their rescue, they were flown back to the village by helicopter. (Image: Gazprom Neft)

The two men were examined on the icebreaker by the ship’s doctor, fitted with new clothes and fed. The fishermen had been dressed warmly and had food with them, which helped them survive until help arrived. “Both men felt well after being examined by the icebreaker’s doctors,” Gazprom Neft said after they were taken on board.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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