SPOT Saves

Read our featured rescue stories

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SPOT Gen3 is an essential safety and communication tool in the wilds of Greenland.

To most of us, Greenland summons an image of a large, amorphous white patch straddling the Arctic Circle on our maps and globes. While appearing uniformly frozen when viewed from afar, what the place might be like close up is mysterious for many.

Zoom in, and you find that Greenland is geographically diverse, with a unique culture and distinctive way of life. It is the most sparsely populated country on the planet with approximately 55,000 inhabitants. A few thousand residents have chosen to relocate from Denmark, but the vast majority are native to the island with an indigenous culture dating back for millennia. Hunting and fishing are a big part of people’s lives, and livelihoods.

“Greenland is quite a special place; in the same shop you can buy fishing equipment and boats, to camping and hunting gear as well as a pint of milk,” observes Henrik Jensen, owner of Denmark-based outdoor equipment distributor Comcepto. “We mainly do business in Greenland, providing a wide range of equipment to our retailer partners there,” he reports.

With its huge landmass of rugged terrain and tundra, and small dispersed population, Greenland is both wild and isolated. GSM coverage is limited to the towns.

Beyond the island’s sheer remoteness, the power and unpredictability of the weather and sea combine to pose serious hazards to Greenlanders. “Outside of the towns, you really need satellite communications to get in contact with other people,” says Henrik.

Pilersuisoq is one of Greenland’s biggest retail chains and Heilmann is product manager for hunting and fishing equipment.

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Trekking at Altitude in India – SPOT to the Rescue

Dr. Simon Young has relied on SPOT Gen3 for several years, and his device is always on hand when he heads out on his own on Munro-bagging trips in Scotland. Adventuring solo is in the family genes; Simon first came across SPOT when his son used one during a solo bike trip from Bishkek to Ulaanbaatar. Its small size and weight, reliability and global coverage, made it a no-brainer.

Simon uses SPOT’s check-in feature to ensure peace of mind for his family when he explores the hills. But the device’s tracking and SOS functions are especially invaluable when, as head of outdoor education at a boarding school in England, he leads school trips including Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and trekking holidays.

In summer 2018, Simon took a school group trekking on the Markha Valley trail in India reaching heights over 5,000 metres. When they reached Markha village they came across a group of Czech mountaineers on their campsite who were struggling to help one of their group who was seriously ill despite being young, fit and well acclimatised to the altitude.

They tried putting the patient in a portable hyperbaric bag to reduce the impact of the high altitude. They also gave him oxygen. But it was clear he needed to be evacuated to receive specialist treatment.

Returning back to civilisation would have entailed an arduous journey of up to three days and there wouldn’t have been enough time for the sick climber to get the emergency help he needed. Communications also presented a challenge. There was no mobile phone coverage in the area. Furthermore, there is just a single satellite phone in all of Markha village that is only available when there is enough power.

To initiate a rescue urgently, Simon hit the SOS button on his SPOT Gen3. Knowing this would cause anguish at home and at the school, he also sent his pre-programmed “all is well and I am fine” messages.

Simon and his team secured the campsite for a helicopter landing then continued on their way.

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Trekking in Northern Norway in Midwinter

In possibly the world’s most extreme pub crawl, Kjell-Harald Myrseth and a friend set off on a 500km trek using skis, sleds and dogs to Alta, Norway. Inside the Arctic Circle in midwinter, they faced 21 hours a day of darkness and well-below-freezing cold during the month-long journey.

Although most people would avoid this kind of adventure, Kjell embraces these activities. He has always lived locally, has completed ten similar trips and had just finished his studies in Arctic adventure tourism.

It didn’t all go to plan though. Kjell’s friend had to drop out after the halfway point when he suffered frostbite in his toes. Then, when Kjell was just a day or two away from his destination, a hurricane strength storm blew in.

Kjell was unable to stand up and a tent would be ineffective but he knew the drill and crawled on the ground to build a snow cave for protection.

But this time the winds were reaching up to 140 km per hour and his cave collapsed after an hour. Although he could not even see his hands in the blizzard, Kjell built another cave. This too could only withstand the conditions for a short time.

Kjell had never heard of snow caves crumpling in this way. He realised his chances of survival were shrinking by the minute and he pressed the SOS button on his SPOT for the very first time despite taking the device on trips for many years.

Over the next two days Kjell built three more snow caves until there wasn’t enough nearby snow left to build any more – the wind had whipped it all off the ground.

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Dangling high up a tree with SPOT

Markus Huber

A keen hang and paraglider since 1983, Markus Huber bought his SPOT Gen3 for a trip to Australia in 2016. A Swiss national now living in Silicon Valley, Markus goes paragliding in Switzerland, Greece and France as well as California, generally in areas with poor mobile phone coverage.

In April 2018, Markus was back in Switzerland for a management conference and was lucky to squeeze in a day of paragliding before heading back to San Jose.

He met a friend at Niederwiler Stierenberg to fly towards Biel through the Jura Mountains. His friend took off first and Markus followed 15 minutes later.

The first thermals were easy and Markus took advantage of a good tailwind to get up a good speed. But he was too ambitious when flying along the leeside of a rim. Although there was rough air, Markus thought he was in control until his paraglider collapsed 80% on the left side. The remaining 20% of the wing immediately shot forward, twisting the lines.

At 200 metres above the ground Markus threw out his reserve parachute and seconds later found himself hanging 20 metres up in a tree.

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Surviving cruel weather in the Italian mountains

Franceso De Marco

As a naturalist and landscape photographer, Francesco de Marco often travels from his base in Italy to parts of the world with no mobile phone reception. He bought a SPOT Gen3 in 2016 after doing thorough research and reading reviews. Now, when he arrives somewhere for a shoot, he makes a point of sending a check-in message to the folks back home to say he is OK. His family and friends follow his travels as his faithful SPOT tracks his movements.

However in December 2017, Francesco found himself using SPOT in an emergency situation.

He was driving off-road, heading home with three others in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy about 100 km North East of Rome when the weather suddenly changed. They found themselves in a huge snowstorm and the temperature plummeted to -20 degrees C.

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