A recent canoe trip in Sweden pushed the boundaries for the use of GPS advancements for expedition safety. Recently finishing a seven-day expedition along the Hotagen River and surrounding lakes near the Norwegian border in the vast tundra of northern Sweden, Intrepid Expeditions invited a company called Globavista along to help pin-point their locations en route, receive accurate weather information, send and receive messages, and have an emergency parachute should things go awry…
Globavista specializes in real-time tracking and positioning and advanced mapping technology, recently winning a UK government contract for their fisheries vessel monitoring system and working with the Volvo Ocean Race.
Responsible for safely leading 12 clients and a lone film-maker on the trip, Intrepid Expeditions founder and former Marine Nigel Startin was smitten with the service. “Whether you’re leading an Arctic expedition at minus 30 or organizing an expedition to Antarctica, safety is everything,” he says. “Any factor that helps re-assure my clients and team is great. We were intrigued to see how Globavista performed.’
Sweden was the perfect testing ground, with waterways inaccessible to most, especially on a week-long expedition. “Unless you’ve actually seen northern Sweden for yourself, it’s difficult to understand how truly in the wild you can feel,” says Startin. “Canoeing can bring you into challenging scenarios, and this trip was no different. We faced huge and unpredictable storms turning mirror-calm waters into rough waves instantly. Globavista comes into play when you need to start calculating your earliest extraction point.”
For the Sweden trip, the expedition used a Globavista-integrated hand-held Yellowbrick device. “It gave everyone a far greater sense of confidence and security,” says Startin. “It provided accurate and detailed forecasts, allowing us to adjust our timing, and sent reliable and robust information to the Globavista operations room, telling them the historic route we had taken, giving real-time tracking and positioning including any deviation from the intended route corridor. Knowing that someone else knows exactly where you are is reassuring. And the panic button device was there as an extra back-up should we needed it. It’s a great piece of technology to have at your finger tips.’
With satellite phones expensive, and coming without guarantee that they’ll always work, and cell phone coverage often unreliable or non-existent on expeditions, Globavista’s Iradium satellite technology reliably gets messages out and receives confirmation that they’ve been seen.
“We’re ensuring that new sectors and customers can have the chance to purchase and utilize our technology,” says Globavista Managing Director Mark Hewish, who was delighted at how his product performed on the paddling trip. “We’re bringing expedition safety to the next level, well beyond just the world of canoeing and kayaking. It’s a unique safety, analytical and security selling point to all expedition providers. The data can provide invaluable intelligence to a ‘what happens next’ scenario along with the obvious research applications that many expedition teams carry out. We’re all about helping teams find solutions that are right for them.”