By Mervin Brass

For nearly a week, five young people from Southend, Saskatchewan, used the traditional survival skills they were taught to survive the cold, wet and freezing conditions of northern Saskatchewan.

Last Tuesday, the youth between the ages of 13 to 17 years old were in two boats travelling up the lake from Southend when the cold wet weather caused the motors to freeze.

“The waves got too big, it got too cold, the visibility was bad, it was was rough,” says Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation band councillor, Simon Jobb. “A few days ago they tried to head back to the community but they just couldn’t make it back.”

The young people made it as far as Malcolm Island, 10 kilometers south of the community of Kinoosao.

After two days without word from the missing young people an air search was organized but the visibility was really bad making it difficult to see anything on the ground.

An air search was conducted but bad weather hampered initial search efforts. Photo courtesy RCMP Media Relations.

An air search was conducted but bad weather hampered initial search efforts. Photo courtesy RCMP Media Relations.

Then on the weekend some hope.

According to an RCMP media release two boats were observed docked at the wharf of a privately owned lodge on Reindeer Lake on Saturday.

Due to poor weather, searchers were unable to travel to the area until the next day.

On Sunday, searchers observed that the lodge had been broken into with some supplies taken, but no one was at the lodge at that time.

Jobb says there are quite a few cabins that remain open with fisherman leaving behind dry goods and other supplies in case these types of things happen.
“The other day when they were searching the area (Malcolm Island) they couldn’t even see down,” says Jobb. “Today they had better visibility. They spotted the kids, they were waving as the plane passed by.”

A rescue boat transported the youth from one side of Malcolm Island to the other, where the air strip is located. They were flown back to Southend and are said to be in good health, but were being checked at the health centre in Southend as a precaution.

Jobb says two of the five youth had experience surviving in the north – skills taught to them by their parents and grand parents.

“They had to make their own fire, they had to dry up their clothes because any little bit of water that hits, your clothing is going to freeze up right away,” he says. “They had to keep thawing out their stuff and had to make fires.”

Once Reindeer Lake freezes the search and rescue efforts would become a lot more challenging.

Reindeer Lake. Photo courtesy RCMP Media Relations.

Reindeer Lake. Photo courtesy RCMP Media Relations.

“It was such a big relief,” says Jobb describing the community’s reaction when they learned the young people were found alive. “The stress level was pretty high. People were getting worried because that’s a long time to be out there.”

During the past week the temperatures dipped to -10 to -18 degrees Celsius.

Reindeer Lake is the second largest lake in Saskatchewan and ninth largest lake in Canada having what has been described as thousands of islands.

“Time wasn’t really on our side,” says Jobb. “Once the wind dies down the lake is going to freeze, it’s a huge lake. The only reason it’s not frozen right now is it’s so windy.”

Jobb would like to thank all the people who helped with the search.




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