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Couple airlifted as Coopers Brook overflows

Chris and Melissa Battiste with their dog, Baloo, at their yurt. – Courtesy of © Chris Battiste

SOUTHWEST COAST — Just before 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 24, Chris and Melissa Battiste, along with their dog Baloo, were airlifted from their off-grid campsite near South Branch.

The RCMP received a call just after midnight and a rescue helicopter airlifted them to Port aux Basques.

“We engaged Barachois Ground Search and Rescue and JRCC, who attempted to reach them but could not due to weather and road washout. They and their dog were rescued from the scene just before 4:30 p.m. yesterday by a Cougar helicopter,” said Jolene Garland, Media Relations Officer with the RCMP on Thursday, Nov. 25.

The Battistes have been living off grid for three years in a yurt, a portable circular structure tent-like structure typically covered in felt and waterproof materials. Yurts have been commonly used as home in Central Asia, particularly Mongolia, for thousands of years, though they are relatively uncommon in Newfoundland. The couple had situated theirs near Coopers Brook, which flows through their property and have been living entirely off the grid.

“No power, no running water, totally self-reliant,” explained Chris.

“We do have a small portable generator that’s powered by solar,” added Melissa.

Melissa’s mother notified the authorities after she got worried.

“Basically the water was coming up higher than we had ever seen before, and Melissa was texting with her mother in Alberta. Her mother got a bit concerned because Melissa was concerned. She went and called the rescue people on us,” said Chris.

Chris noted that being stranded at the yurt was not unusual for them.

“Because of the way we live there, we often get stranded for a week or so at a time, and then we just wait for the water to recede and go on our way,” said Chris.

This time was a bit different simply because there was three to four times the amount of water they had ever encountered before. The couple feels fortunate that their belongings are still intact back at the yurt.

“We’re lucky. We escaped water damage altogether,” said Chris. “The yurt itself never took on water. It just came underneath the yurt, within a foot of the floor of the yurt.”

The pair and their pet are in good shape, but admit they are exhausted from the experience.

“Just tired, and overdone from the last 48 hours, but physically no problems. We were cold and wet, and all that stuff like normal, but nothing serious,” shared Chris.

For now the Battistes and Baloo will stay with family in Port aux Basques.

“Until the roads open back up and (we) get back to our yurt,” said Chris.

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