In the Arctic, There Has Been a Dramatic Underwater Recovery

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The BC RCMP Underwater Recovery Team (URT) was asked to assist the Nunavut RCMP with a workplace accident in January 2022. A large bulldozer was being used to construct an ice road when the ice broke and the bulldozer was submerged under the ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The depth where the bulldozer went in the area was well beyond the capabilities of most divers. For deep-water investigations, the BC RCMP dive team has a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) with a depth capability of 1000 feet or 300 metres. The officers chosen are highly skilled Police Underwater Investigators with ROV and cold weather operations experience.

The rescue team faced a number of challenges, including the remote location in Nunavut, the thickness of the ice, which was 5-6 feet thick, and, perhaps most importantly, extreme cold weather with temperatures below -41 degrees Celsius and a wind chill below -53 degrees Celsius. The scene was at a depth of 521 feet (159 metres) of water.

The initial dives were conducted by the ROV in order to conduct an environmental assessment of the scene. The bulldozer and operator were quickly located by the ROV. During one of the dives, the ROV became entangled in a rope used as a reference line and could not be cleared. As a result, the BC RCMP asked the RCMP National Underwater Recovery Training Centre (NURTC) for assistance. The training centre has a newer model ROV that could both free the first ROV and extricate the operator from the bulldozer.

ROV
Remote-Operated Vehicle – Photo Credit: RCMP

This operation is the deepest RCMP underwater recovery, and the first RCMP operational dive conducted above the Arctic Circle. The success of this operation was due in part to the RCMP utilizing partnerships with non-governmental organizations to assist with flight logistics, accommodations and heated site preparations to complete this monumental task.

Although a tragic circumstance, the combined efforts of the RCMP police divers involved were able to return the operator to his family and provide information for the investigation to prevent these type of accidents in the future.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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