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Melting sea ice strands trucks in Nome

By KTVA CBS 11 News 10:40 AM April 29, 2014

A group of miners outside Nome moved fast, but the sea ice moved faster.

After two trucks became stranded on the ice off the coast of Nome Sunday, it took about a dozen people and some Alaska ingenuity to bring them back.

Video captured Sunday by Nome resident Donny Johnson shows the trucks stuck on the ice after a floe broke loose, leaving a stretch of open water between the vehicles and the shore. Johnson said the trucks were in the process of removing mining equipment from the sea ice when they becomes stranded. Several smaller vehicles were able to drive off the ice before it broke loose, but the larger trucks weren’t so lucky.

So Monday afternoon, about 10 people traveled back out to the ice and drove the trucks to the edge. Nome resident Elmer Bekoalok, who photographed the rescue from shore, said dozens of holes were drilled into the ice around the trucks. Before it could break free, another small floe drifted by, close enough to drive the trucks onto it.

With the trucks resting on a makeshift ice raft, Bekoalok said rescuers used a 6-foot zodiac equipped with a 3.5 horsepower outboard motor to push the ice barge towards shore. But as the trucks approached dry land, the recovery operation hit a snag when the ice barge bottomed out in shallow water. Bekoalok said he tried to help tow the ice raft with an ATV on the beach, but it wouldn’t budge. Some people tore apart a mining sluice box in an attempt to make a makeshift ramp, he said. They had no luck.

Finally, Bekoalok said, their fortunes changed with the turning tide.

As the water rose, a larger ice floe bumped up against the makeshift raft and shoved it towards the shore. Seconds later, Bekoalok said, the pressure from the incoming floe broke the ice barge in half, but by that point the trucks had already driven up onto the beach.

“It was a lot of chaos, but it turned out,” he said.

 –Video courtesy Elmer Bekoalok

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