ELY, Minn. — A solo canoeist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness used an emergency communications device to call for help Saturday, Oct. 17.

According to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, an Ely-area outfitter received an SOS device activation from one of its clients who had been dropped off earlier in the day and who was canoeing solo into Nina-Moose Lake off the Echo Trail. The call came at about 5 p.m.

The 34-year-old man from Elkhart, Ind., was apparently without any shelter and unable to warm himself with a fire. He activated his satellite SOS device and stated "Help Wet and Cold.” Temperatures were in the 20s near Ely on Saturday with heavy snow at times during the day.

“It was as dark as I’ve ever seen it out there,” said Minnesota conservation officer Sean Williams, who aided in the rescue. “You couldn’t see anything. It was snowing heavily, fog was moving in and there was ice on the lake. We had to break through ice to get to the middle of the lake, and when we made it to the middle it was so dark we had to use a GPS to find the shore and his campsite.”

When rescuers arrived at his campsite, a St. Louis County Rescue Squad member applied heat pads to the man’s core to begin warming him. Rescuers got him into warmer gear and built a fire, which he sat near for about 90 minutes while wrapped in a wool blanket. When the man was sufficiently warm, Williams noted, rescue personnel loaded him into the boat and headed back to their entry point. Other members of the rescue squad met them at the final portage and helped get the man out of the wilderness and to medical attention.

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The man’s decision to rent emergency communications equipment likely saved his life, Williams said in a statement released by the DNR.

“Had we not gotten there when we did, I don’t know that he would have made it through the night,” Williams said. “Luckily, he had the communications equipment and wasn’t afraid to use it once he knew he was in trouble.”

The man's identity was not released by authorities.

Ice is already forming on several lakes in the Ely area. The sheriff's office and DNR remind all people who venture into the BWCAW to prepare for all conditions, do not take any unnecessary risks, leave an itinerary of your travel plan and travel with a GPS or SOS device if possible in case of emergencies.