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Russian Helicopter Pilot Crashes Into Arctic Waters, Faces Polar Bears — And Survives

Sergey Ananov, who was attempting to be the first person to fly around the Arctic circle in a lightweight helicopter, was found by a Canadian coast guard ship early this morning on an ice floe in the Davis Strait.

by Rachel Browne
Jul 27 2015, 5:10pm

Photo de Sergey Ananov via Facebook

The Russian pilot attempting to be the first to fly around the Arctic circle in a lightweight helicopter has been found "alive and well," after he was forced to land on water during the Iqaluit-to-Greenland leg of the trip.

Two days after he was reported missing, Sergey Ananov was found by a Canadian coast guard ship early this morning on a sheet of floating ice in Davis Strait, a spokesperson for the Joint Task Force Atlantic told the CBC. He boarded the Pierre Radisson and is on the way back to Iqaluit.

"A red flare was spotted, and upon investigation it was determined to be the search subject alive and well on the floe," the spokesperson said. "No medical attention is required."

One of Ananov's supporters told Nunatsiaq online he had spent those days waiting for rescue on the ice alongside three polar bears.

And according to Rear Admiral John Newton from the Canadian Forces Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, Ananov, 49, had just seconds to escape from the helicopter after it crashed into the water.

"He had some charming neighbors that would have come to his location to inquire what he was up to," said Newton. "He apparently had all his skills and his facilities to look after himself to stay alive, to stay warm, fend off the polar bears, and fire the last flare in his package to alert the Pierre Radisson of his location."

"He's OK. The joy of being found is the overwhelming emotion that cures a lot of your ills."

Ananov, had arrived in Iqaluit two days earlier to refuel his Robinson R22 helicopter, which weighs less than one ton. He departed from Moscow on July 13.

On Saturday morning, after Ananov embarked on the 500-mile trip to Greenland, the Canadian Forces Joint Rescue Coordination Centre received a report about a helicopter that had lost signal near Baffin Island and deployed search-and-rescue teams by air and sea.

While investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the crash, the area in which he was flying was covered with dense fog.

"It couldn't have been a more austere area of the planet to be in the Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland," Newton added. "It's a pretty rough terrain, a lot of ice in it."

Photo of Sergey Ananov via Facebook

The Facebook group dedicated to Ananov's trip, Helicopter Solo Around the World, was thrilled about the rescue.

"Thanks everyone for your prayers and well wishes !!! [A]nd undescribable gratitude to all the men and women of the Canadian Search and Rescue," the group posted on Monday.

There have been no updates on what happened to the helicopter since the crash.

Ananov holds five world records for his flights in a Robinson R22 aircraft, including the longest distance flown without landing and highest take-off.

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne