Friday, May 19, 2006

Rescue Groups Predict Getting Busy As Arctic Travel Increases

CBC News

Search-and-rescue groups in the far North are preparing for what they expect will be a surge in demand for their services as more and more adventure seekers, eco-tourists and scientists head to the Canadian Arctic.

"We're getting more adventurers and everybody wants to go through the Northwest Passage or they want to have a piece of this last frontier¦ which is creating some concerns for us," said Col. Norm Couturier, who commands the Canadian Forces in the North.

Couturier is also chair of the Arctic Security Interdepartmental Working Group, a gathering of people from the military, various federal and territorial government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The 65-member group is meeting this week in Iqaluit to discuss boosting its preparation for search-and-rescue operations and other emergencies because it seems the world's thrill-seekers have already crossed off their checklists such places as Mount Everest, Antarctica and the Amazon.

Extreme tourists are starting to go north to paraglide off the steep cliffs of Baffin Island or cross the ice floes to reach the North Pole.

And next year will be International Polar Year, which Couturier says will bring thousands of scientists from numerous countries over a two-year period.

Not all of those scientists will be accustomed to the challenges of conditions in the Arctic, but David Hik, a researcher with the University of Alberta and member of the Canadian Secretariat for International Polar Year, says they will all have to follow the same guidelines as Canadian researchers now working in the North.

"I really hope that no one shows up thinking that they'll be able to go out on the land in shorts and T-shirts," he said. "I know that happens sometimes but we're certainly trying to make sure that everyone involved¦ is much better prepared than that."

For more articles on Arctic travel, see;

Traveling to the Canadian Arctic

Trip to Iqaluit

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