Sunday, 20 March 2011

On the wrong side of the tracks?

Jorgen and I will be carrying a SPOT II GPS Satellite Messenger on our Arctic Circle ski tour from Alta to Kautokeino. Hopefully, from Tuesday afternoon, you will be able to follow our progress in real time by clicking here and watching our trail of electronic 'breadcrumbs' on our shared page. I have also integrated the SPOT II's 'OK/Check-in' function into my Twitter stream.

Some might feel that this electronic tracking reduces the feeling of 'getting away from it all' or that we may become complacent, relying on technology instead of skills to get ourselves out of trouble. Friends, family and the curious might disagree. Discuss.

13 comments:

Hendrik Morkel said...

You two are like totally getting complacent and lazy. I bet you set up the OK button so that it sends a message to the nearest Pizza/ Hamburger joint with an order and your coordinates. And if you get too cold, or it is too sunny, you just order a helicopter with a bar on-board to pick you up.

;)

Nielsen Brown said...

This trip sounds like fun, I am wondering who is keeping an eye on who? And I am definitely watching your progress, even if I am in a class at the same time.

Joe Newton said...

Hendrik - I remember reading about Erin & Hig getting a pizza air dropped during their Long Trek Home. Mmmmmmm, pizza.........

Roger - turns out our families and friends think each of us is being looked after by the other! I guess we're both bringing different attributes and that can only be a good thing.

Dave Hanlon said...

I've carried a spot tracker on three trips now and I make no appologies for doing so. Arguably over the top for the relatively short, comparatively tame trips I do but the value lies in the peace of mind it gives my family. I check in morning and eveninng, they relax knowing I'm okay and I get a relatively guilt free trip in return.

Shadow said...

As your cuz back in ol' blightly I definitely think it's a good idea and will certainly be keeping an eye on your progress!

Hope you have a fantastic time (the green eyed monster is sitting on my shoulder!)

Joe Newton said...

Dave - peace of mind for the family and online tracking are probably the most important functions for me with the SPOT, although it can be argued that there are smart phone systems that can also perform these tasks. That I can call upon emergency services, even out of mobile coverage is what I think gives the SPOT the edge.

Abbie - thanks for supplying 'the family' perspective!

Dave Hanlon said...

Mobile coverage is sketchy even in places like the English lakes. My experience of SPOT is that is works every time. I've read accounts of others that say is doesn't have a 100% hit rate but that's not me experience.

As for the emergency function: As I'm sure you do I go out with the intention of a) not getting into trouble and b) getting myself out of it if I do. Calling for help is a very last resort. That said, one of the first uses of SPOT I read about was in the UK where a walker was suffering from delibitating pain due to Gallstones and needed help to get off the mountain. That story has stayed with me. The idea that the consequences of an otherwise simple medical problem can be disproportionately magnified when you're even just a days walk from civilisation is a sobering one. If carried along with the right attitude I think the SPOT is a great bit of kit. I'd like it even better if it gave me a read out of my position.

Joe Newton said...

Dave - I agree, serious illness is an unforeseen complication that doesn't arise out of carelessness or complacency.

SPOT III to come with a GPS display?...

Dave Hanlon said...

The objection I've heard to including a read-out display is the cost to battery life. I'm not sure how big an effect a B&W LCD readout would have on power consumption but since a tiny solar cell fuelled by a domestic light bulb is sufficient to power such a display on cheap calculators I can't imagine it would be too detrimental. It would certainly improve the functionality of the device no end.

samh said...

I used FourSquare to "check-in" from atop a peak I was backcountry skiing on yesterday. My attitude toward communications-equipment in the backcountry has changed significantly in the past decade since I first got a cellphone.

Ryan Jordan said...

I like following trips in real time. This has increased my passion for being out there myself, and helps me feel more connected to you guys. Thanks for keeping us plugged and allowing us the opportunity to watch.

Christian said...

I have to agree with the notion of keeping the family at home at ease.

Last year I was doing a solo two day trip over the weekend and promised to send a message at night to let my partner know all is good. As it turned out, I didn't have any cell reception almost from the moment I left the trailhead. It took me until 2pm the next day to finally be able to send the message that I was fine. Of course, my partner was already worried sick at this point.

For this alone I am eyeing the Spot II.

Tomas said...

I'm reading a ton of mountaineering and antarctic exploration books lately, and the perspectives of some of the authors about bringing communication devices on trips was so opposite to what I had thought that it really forced me to ponder on the whole thing.

Walther Bonnatti (Alpinist extraordinaire) rejects all communication gear as a cheat. It destroys any integrity of the journey and destroys the challenge. He's a total purist and thinks anything that isn't a piton or a rope is a cheat as well. The problem is he formed his opinions in the 60's and 70's, so to him a communication device is a 20 Kg radio. Something like that being brought on a trip is so massive and deliberate it would feel like a strong concession to safety. While these days a spot device takes up less space than a book. It seems so much more casual to take along than a radio.

The other aspect of it is that when you don't have anything to communicate with, the feeling of isolation is so much more complete. That's a big part of the atmosphere in early Antarctic exploration, the complete break between the crews that head south and the rest of the world. It can be quite daunting I think, especially when hiking solo in the mountains. I find I am so much more cautious when alone and without any charge left in my phone. It actual feels like the difference between climbing top rope (with the rope securing you from the top of the cliff) and lead-climbing (climbing with no top-rope securing you, and adding security as you go along). When lead-climbing the safety net isn't there and suddenly it all feels a lot more real.