‘I had to scare off 3 polar bears on Arctic ice’ – Russian helicopter crash survivor
Sergey Ananov experienced what has been described as a controlled crash during the Iqaluit-to-Greenland leg of his trip in the Davis Strait on Saturday. The pilot left Moscow in mid-June flying a lightweight Robinson R-22 helicopter.
“It was an ambitious world record attempt. Nobody has ever flown round the world in a helicopter that light,” Sergey Ananov told RT, adding that preparation for the flight took a year and the flight itself had lasted 50 days all together.
Having covered some 34,000 kilometers, he had only 4,000 km left to become the first solo light chopper pilot fly around the world.At this point, however, things went terribly wrong.
‘Helicopter sank in 30 seconds’
The crash itself happened very quickly, Ananov told RIA Novosti, adding that the helicopter was underwater in less than a minute after one of the belts that transmits power from the engine broke.
“[The helicopter] was completely out of control … and could only go down. I wanted to crash land on the ice floe, but failed … lost momentum, fell somewhere in the 50-100 meters from the ice … literally sank in 30 seconds,” he said. He managed to recover a life raft but not the GPS equipment to contact rescuers.
After the crash, Ananov had to swim to reach the ice. “I had a lot of scratches – I didn’t even think I would have been able to climb the floe because it was so high.”
“I was trembling from the very first minute of my stay on the ice,” he told CTV News.
3 unexpected guests and extreme weather
During his two-day ordeal in the cold wilderness, Ananov came face-to-face with three polar bears.
“The wind has gathered floes and they formed an ice field, which the bears used to reach me. Three bears visited but I was able to scare off all of them,” he said.
“I had my strategy. I was hiding under my life raft [and] when they were very, very close I just jumped out of my raft,” he told CTV News. “I [understood] I must do something very angry and frightening … so I roared at them, I put up my hands and I chased them.”
The pilot said he suffered severe dehydration and had to eat ice to survive. “I was always conscious but had constant shivers and was not in control of my own body,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
Last chance flare
On top of bears and freezing weather, Ananov was faced with fog that prevented rescuers from pinpointing his exact location – despite the help of the GPS tracker that aired his last position before the crash. He heard a rescue helicopter buzzing above him and desperately launched two signal flares. When the coastguard finally approached Ananov by sea, he was down to his last flare.
“At some point I was losing hope because I thought this fog will never disappear,” he said.
But Ananov got lucky, as on Sunday night the fog cleared and he saw a ship in the distance.
“Here I said, ‘OK, this is my last chance and the last flare,'” he said, adding that a female member of the crew “noticed the very last seconds of the flare.”
The Russian pilot was put aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ship Pierre Radisson, where he received urgent medical attention and was given a “brilliant supper.”
Ananov said that one of the goals of his trip was to circumnavigate the Arctic Circle. He said he is unsure whether he will try again.
He was able to reach out to the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, which said that it will be helping Ananov to replace all of his lost travel documents, so he can return home to Russia. On hearing he might have some financial difficulties, Ananov’s internet supporters even launched a crowdfunding campaign after the news of his lucky escape and rescue broke.
Just spoke with Sergey #Ananov. He is feeling alright & glad to be alive. Thanks the Canadian search/rescue mission. On his way to Iqaluit.— RussianEmbassyCanada (@RussianEmbassyC) July 27, 2015
Commenting on his future plans, Sergey Ananov told RT he was uncertain about the idea of repeating his circumnavigation of the globe.
“I’m a sort of man that always goes the distance, but there is a very small time window in the year long period when it can be done, … so it can be realized only next year,” he said, adding that he did not like “going the same routes” and did not want his family to worry about him as much as they had this time.
You can check out photos taken by Ananov during his epic solo flight on the pilot’s Facebook page.