[LINK] limits of technology in finding someone

Adam Todd link at todd.inoz.com
Fri Dec 8 19:52:12 AEDT 2006

At 02:28 PM 8/12/2006, Danny Yee wrote:
>I had an interesting experience the first time I was on a bushwalk
>where the leader had a GPS.  We climbed up a hill to reach a fire
>trail, where the GPS was used to pinpoint our location on the map.
>The leader then promptly headed off down the fire trail, *in the wrong
>direction*.  To be stopped after 50 metres by me waving my compass.


I drove from Castle Hill to Penrith today.  I had a few stops along the way 
so set the navigator to director me to each stop.  The GPS Navigator took 
me around the world on the way out there, travel time more than 45 
minutes.  I decided to make my own way back using the routes I have for 
years.  Return travel time 35 minutes.

Navigator "You have gone the wrong way, do a u-turn and take the next left" 
which would have sent me to the mountains!

Going from Castle Hill to Chipping Norton however was near perfect.  It 
only put me at the WRONG end of a private road at my destination, and 
failed to be able to tell me how to get the the ENTRY side.

It was a direct path - I guess you can't go two wrong taking the Cumberland 
highway, a left turn a right turn and stopping ;)

Although it did try and take me via Homebush originally until it realised I 
was going the Cumberland and that was that.

>Technology is no replacement for understanding the conditions and the
>terrain.  And leaving a car on foot to seek help seems as foolish in
>freezing northern winters as it is in the Australian outback in summer.

Technology is no replacement for anything.,

In the mid 1990's a bunch of us went cross country in the Snowy Mountains 
during the snow season.  I'd never done anything like that before, others 
hand.  We all had good to extensive survival training and 
experience.  (Although I've done a lot of washed away in underground caves 
flash flooding stuff!)

We told the Authorities where we were going, how long we expected to take 
and what route we anticipated we'd take, indicating any possible deviations 
that might also happen as one of the party had treked the area before and 
thought we might do some downhill runs placing us quite a way often from 
the main track.

We head off early, with Mobile phones, two way radios and EIPRBS.  (Yep 
that was my toy! We had two actually.)

About three hours into the trek and the awesome views, mobile phones lost 
coverage.  Useless.  So they got turned off.  Every few hours we checked in 
on the UHF radios and someone has an HF radio.  There always seemed to be 
someone somewhere, and the emergency channel always had a response to our 
test calls.

Then suddenly without warning we got caught in a hell of a storm.  It came 
in and clobbered us in less than 5 minutes.  We all dug ourselves into the 
snow building a rather nice snow cave.  (It took a LONG time, but it was 
better than standing around doing nothing and 15 people can dig a hole damn 

We basically built an igloo by digging and packing snow around us.  It was 
quite novel.  Took about 4 hours, the blizzard and snow kept falling, it 
was damn cold.

Some collected firewood, we had lighters and fuel to start a suitable fire 
inside the snowcabin.

Then we realised that the Authorities were probably in a major panic as 
we'd not made it to our destination checkpoint nor had we checked in for 
some hours.  We were rather occupied with self preservation and one doesn't 
really go skiing down untracked hillsides in blizzards you can only see 
three feet in.

Someone tried the UHF radio, but we got no response.  I suspect we were in 
a bit of a dead spot more than a lack of range.  But after ten minutes on 
the HF we got a very weak distant station who then telephoned the 
Authorities and advised we were OK and camped in.

About 4 hours later we got a call on the UHF from National Parks or some 
such asking if we were ok, our rough position and did we need assistance, 
rescue or evacuation, the blizzard was expected to run mostly over night.

We had a democaratic vote and decided we'd stay put, safer and given the 
conditions, no helicopter was realistically going to fly safely, and the 
chances of finding us we as had no clue where we actually were was pretty 
stupid an idea.  We also decided that rescuers would probably be more worse 
for wear by the time they got to us that we'd need to bring them back!

So we established a 30 minute checkin and report our status.  Authorities 
were quite concerned we might come to ill harm being buried in the snow or 
we might suffer a cave in or the likes.  But we had a good experienced 
Alaskan fellow who was just amazing to watch, learn from and listen to.

It was a damn cold night, not having enough firewood to keep a fire running 
and the risk of melting too much of the habitat too quickly.  Plus there 
were effectively four cabins connected by small 5 foot tunnels so it was a 
bit unrealistic to find sufficient fuel for a fire.

Anyway who needs anything when you have chocolate, hot water in a flask, a 
really sweaty thermal sleeping bag and good company!

The next morning we dug ourselves out.  We were really surprised by the 3 
feet of light snow literally over the top of us.  I was actually quite 
shocked, realising that things could have been quite bad, as were a few 
others.  But we'd survived and it was fun.

We made breakfast, apparently the smoke from our fire for breakfast was 
seen by the search party looking for some other trekers who got lost.  They 
came to us thinking we were the missing group of 5.  We decided to split 
into two teams, plus the original search team and help search.  Made for a 
more enticing adventure and put some purpose to the cross country trek 
rather than just to go from A to B because one could.

We had good radio contact.

Our second team found the missing trekkers huddled together under a bunch 
of trees with branches pulled over them in a mesh.  They had no idea where 
they were.  Food and water was shared and they waited for the search team 
and my team to arrive.

When we all regrouped we worked out the missing party were 11 km's from 
where they were suppose to.  They got so lost in the blizard they literally 
walked the opposite direction and instead of realising that the 30 minute 
walk to the township wasn't getting shorter, they kept walking!

They were pretty exhausted and pretty bad off from exposure not having the 
packs we had so after warming them up and such a couple of buggies came in 
and brought them back, with the search team.

Sadly we weren't so lucky.  We didn't get a free ride, we had to trudge the 
last 1.5 hours back to the town ourselves.

The mobile phones came into range about 30 minutes hard snow walk from the 
destination, I can't remember which of the places it was now.

We didn't have GPS.  We just waited till we could see the sun, it's 
position, the cast of the shadows and looked at a watch to tell the time!

All in all, it was a hell of a fun trip.  Not sure how it rates to the trip 
I was on where we got washed away in a flash flood whilst caving, ok lots 
of bruises and hell scary, but we knew the cave, had cave maps, and good 
kit.  I just really don't like being forced down a very rough cavern at a 
fast pace by what feels like a brick wall that doesn't know how to slow 
down or stop.

we later found out the flash flood wasn't caused by rains (who goes caving 
when it's rained??) it was a subsidence up the caves in an area that was 
mostly inaccessible to people, water had built up over several years, some 
rock work formation gave way and woosh.  We just happened to be in the 
right place at the wrong time for the right fun time of our lives.

No I'll stick with the Dolphins that swam with us at Kiama as the most 
peaceful and relaxing experience.  Although we ended up washed up on the 
rocks and cut to buggery on that occasion too.

What a digression!

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