Canadian Rangers Rescue Overdue Peawanuck Ice Fisherman

Canadian Rangers

PEAWANUCK – A small Canadian Ranger search party found an overdue ice fisherman who was having trouble returning to his home in Peawanuck, a small Cree community near Hudson Bay.

“We don’t think he would have survived the night,” said Sergeant Matthew Gull, commander of the Peawanuck Canadian Ranger patrol, who led the rescue. “We think he would have perished for sure.”

Sergeant Gull and two other Rangers – Master Corporal Mike Koostachin and Corporal Maurice Mack – were told the man had called a relative on a satellite phone but his message could not be understand.

The relative feared the man was in difficulty of some kind.

The man had told a friend before he left the community by snowmobile that he was going ice fishing and gave a description of where he might be going. When he did not return as expected his family asked the local Nishnawbe Aski Police for help. The request was passed to the Canadian Army which authorized the use of local Rangers to go to the man’s aid. Rangers are part-time army reservists.

Sergeant Matthew Gull arrives at his home after completing the rescue. He is holding a satellite phone and a food hamper.
Sergeant Matthew Gull arrives at his home after completing the rescue. He is holding a satellite phone and a food hamper. Photo by Tara Sloss.

The three-man search party found the fisherman about 30 kilometers east of Peawanuck and had difficulty in getting him to return with them to Peawanuck.  His behavior was unusual and unpredictable and caused difficulties for the Rangers. “We had to go back three times and get him to join us,” Sergeant Gull said. “It took a lot of time.”

When the Rangers got him back to the community the man refused to go to the nursing station and went home. The Rangers notified the local police he had returned. “In the end he was pretty appreciative somebody had come out looking for him,” Sergeant Gull said. “I’m glad we got him.”

The temperature at the time was about -23C with brisk winds making the wind chill around-30C.

“It’s the first time we’ve been called on to find someone this winter,” Sergeant Gull said. “Ironically, it was also the first really cold day, too. It was cold out there on a snowmachine.”

“The Rangers are always ready to respond to an emergency in their communities,” said Major Charles Ohlke, a senior army officer. “That becomes increasingly important as temperatures start to drop in Northern Ontario. More than likely, given the conditions, the Rangers saved a life.”

(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)