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20 tourists survive Canadian Arctic ice breakaway

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Map: Admiralty Inlet in the northernmost territory of Nunavut, Canada.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The 20 tourists have walked to safety after their ice floe drifted back toward land
  • NEW: Helicopters are standing by to take them to a base
  • The group was trapped on a chunk of ice in the Canadian Arctic
  • The tourists, including two Americans, received air-dropped survival kits that included rafts

(CNN) -- A group of 20 tourists, including two Americans, who were trapped at sea on a drifting ice floe in the Canadian Arctic are now safe after a stroke of luck.

Their sheet of ice bumped into another one early Wednesday, the Canadian coast guard said. The second ice floe was touching land.

"They were able to walk from one ice floe to the other to land," marine coordinator Christian Cafiti said. "Everyone is safe and sound."

A rescue plane dropped survival kits onto the 3½-square-mile frozen sheet Tuesday, after the expedition alerted authorities to their plight. The kits included satellite phones, inflatable rafts and food rations.

The plane kept an eye on them while they waited for helicopters to arrive.

When the copters arrived early Wednesday, bad weather prevented them from hoisting the group on board. They are standing by to airlift them to an Arctic station.

"We are having regular conversations with them through satellite phone," Cafiti said.

The tourists do not appear to be in danger of exposure. They are dressed warmly and have been able to remain dry.

Camping surprise

The tourists were camping on the ice when the frozen sheet -- three times the size of New York City's Central Park -- broke free early Tuesday, carried off by the tide.

"Ice breaking off is a very common thing at this time of year," Canadian air force spokesman Steven Neta said.

The floe drifted two miles away from land and appeared to start to crumble, Neta said. Had it fallen apart, the three rubber rafts were more than large enough to hold the whole group.

The cold also was not too harsh. Even that far north, daytime highs in June often rise well above freezing.

More than 220 rescued from ice floes off Latvian coast

CNN's Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

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