Tag Archives: Personal Locator Beacon

Lake Repulse Dam to Catagunya Dam – posting 8 of 13

 

When I reached the top of one of many hills, the heat of the day was intense and weariness forced me to stop.  I ate a little lunch. Sipped a little water. Thought about its reducing quantity. Lay down in the shade. And fell asleep.

Increasingly, I was acknowledging my water situation could become serious.

At the start of my walks I carry two one-litre bladders (Think 2kgs of weight).  By the early afternoon I estimated this quantity might not be sufficient: I realised that the hot weather, the energy required to navigate my way around contours and up and down hills, the need to have water to cook with, clean the teeth, and continue on, were likely to deplete my supplies. If I didn’t find water to replenish my resources I could be in trouble.

As it turned out, the first creek with the brown running water was the only source of water that I might have drunk, if pushed.  Later creeks trickled sluggishly and pools sat with green slime and algae.  Obviously no rain had flushed these creeks in ages.

By late afternoon I decided to head inland to a man-made dam of water clearly marked on the map; I was walking away from the River but I needed water and this seemed the only sensible solution.  I walked up and down more serious hills until the dam was in view (can you spot the dam in the first photo?).

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After walking for around seven hours, this nameless dam was a huge disappointment.  The water edges were pudgy with cattle trampings so that the mud oozed up around my walking boots and threatened to suck them off my feet. And the low level of water left in the dam was a thick brown mix. Unreachable and undrinkable.

That night, I didn’t cook because water would have been required. Instead I finished eating my lunch for dinner.  Again at breakfast I ate food which did not require rehydration. At no time did I brush my teeth, although I would have loved to. Keeping water to sip was more important than niceties.

Next morning I walked for two hours to reach the Catagunya complex.  No creeks ran with clean water on the way.  Cliffs and rocky edges made the water of Lake Repulse inaccessible.  I thought that the bridge over the Derwent River at Catagunya might allow me to drop down and brush my teeth, but again – no access. Impossible.

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Thankfully when I arrived at the Catagunya Power Station, a couple of work cars pulled up.  Inside I was able to refill my water containers and brush my teeth.  Thanks Hydro Tasmania.

I have written before about the challenges of walking and worrying about water. The irony is that the Derwent River is a mighty liquid machine, the water of which can be seen – but mostly it cannot be touched. If a person wasn’t able to keep walking, and didn’t have a Personal Locator Beacon, it would be easy to die of thirst in this remote part of Tasmania in the summer.

Help is on its way

Tasmania is fortunate to have excellent emergency services so that when you need help, ambulances, fire trucks, police, and special emergency services (SES) come to your aid.  Sometimes this involves boats and sometimes this involves helicopters. In a local newspaper article earlier this week, the Westpac Rescue helicopter collected people from five locations. Two of these are connected with the Derwent River.

One person fell down a cliff at Pearsons Point, the location which,in my estimation represents the western mouth of the Derwent.  Long term readers of this blog may recall my photographs from this location – high up and looking out and across to Bruny Island. When I walked there, I remember making the decision not to try and clamber down the cliff.  Reading this news story now makes me glad that I resisted the opportunity to get closer to the water.

The article reported another person was rescued from somewhere near Lake St Clair, and the source of the Derwent River is that Lake.

It does not matter where you are, if you can signal for help (don’t forget your Personal Locator Beacon) then Tasmania’s rescue services will reach you.

Personal Locator Beacon – walkers have one with them

Recently I posted the story of a man who got lost for two days and then was lucky to get out of the Mt Anne region without a Personal Locator Beacon.  Today the news is that a couple of walkers needed to use their Personal Locator Beacon in the same area.  This good news can be read here.  I am pleased to read that the walkers plan to make a donation because the cost of their rescue would have been thousands of dollars.

Both stories are timely reminders of how difficult the terrain can be in Tasmania. When coupled with the uncertainties of extreme weather, the walking experience can become very dangerous.

Plea as lost walker is found

My recent post Personal Locator Beacon explained how taking only a mobile phone when you walk in our Tassie wilderness isn’t smart: the batteries will go flat over time and any GPS location function may not operate.

A couple of days ago a man phoned the Police to say he was lost in some of Tasmania’s most inhospitable territory.  He carried only a mobile phone and had left his camping gear at a spot while he took off on a solo day walk. Thankfully, after two near freezing nights, the man who was described as an “experienced day walker”, found his way to Tasmania Police and their searchers.

If anyone is planning a walk in remote areas in any part of the world, please protect yourself and make it easy for emergency services in the event of an injury, illness or getting lost. Remember in some parts of Tasmania you can be 10 metres away from another person and not be able to see or hear them because of the density and size of the bush.

Tasmania Police made a plea for everyone to carry an EPIRB location device; a Personal Locator Beacon. “With a mobile phone you can only communicate with us, until the battery fails. AN EPIRB tells us where you are.”

Personal Locator Beacon

When walking away from roads and settlements in our Tasmanian wilderness, the risks of injury or illness must be covered.  Mobile phone coverage does not necessarily extend into some remote areas and, even where it does, if a person takes a tumble or becomes sick then s/he may not know the precise location of the place where they are. Therefore, potential rescuers may not be able to locate the sufferer.  In addition, our Tasmanian bush can be so dense that someone walking 10 metres away won’t necessarily see or hear you; therefore an alternative more reliable technology is needed.

The internet offers many different types of useful technology.

The Personal Locator Beacon which I purchased locally in Hobart is a SPOT GEN 3 Satellite GPS Messenger. It has the essential S.O.S. function plus my SPOT offers tracking with a Google Maps interface, regular check-in messages to friends elsewhere, and a Help option where a friend or other personal contact can be alerted to come and provide assistance in a non-critical non-life threatening situation.  The lightweight SPOT weighs a tiny 114 grams, is a tiny pocket-sized unit and ruggedly constructed.

SPOT GEN 3

Once purchased, I registered my SPOT via an online connection so that in the event of my pressing the S.O.S option and needing urgent medical assistance, the GEOS International Emergency Support Coordination Centre will be able to respond. Once activated, they will get in touch with my key contact to determine if s/he knows additional information such as where I have walked from and where I am walking to (I guess that is just in case I don’t obey the important rule of staying where I am when I activate the beacon). My location coordinates and any other information are then provided to local response teams in whatever country or state is appropriate.

This is an expensive piece of technology including the registration charge.  However buying it is like buying car or house insurance. You buy it hoping you never need to use it.