Travelling to remote areas? Who's there for you when things go wrong?

Submitted: Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 18:25
ThreadID: 57987 Views:5464 Replies:16 FollowUps:25
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I've put this on another forum but since another member has bought up the search for th missing camper in Victoria, I thought I'd post it here to


I've recently started working for a Search and Rescue organisation and it's made me think about those things that can go wrong when you're out in the middle of no where.

Imagine you're on that ultimate 4WD trip you've been planning for ages. You're out the east side of the Gibson Desert when you spike your fuel tank. The hole's big enough to put a bowling ball through. Not even Roothy could fix this one.

You haven't seen another vehicle for days, you're out of range for HF comms and Telstra just hasn't reached your location with Next G.......yet.

In this situation, with the right equipment, you could have emergency supplies dropped to you within 24 hours.

When I say "the right equipment" I mean a Personal Locator Beacon or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) with you.

These beacons can be purchased from GME or just google EPIRB.

EPIRBS currently work on 121.5MHz and 406MHz frequencies.

**As of the 1st of February 2009, the 121.5MHz EPIRBS will no longer be detected by satellite**

When you purchase your 406MHz EPIRB you then register the beacon with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

The signal transmitted by your 406MHz beacon is received by satellite and then processed by AMSA and given to the emergency services.

When we're given the call we can get an aircraft out to you well within 24 hours.

From that aircraft we can drop supplies like food, water, shelter, communications and emergency supplies like tools, flares and signals to keep you going until either a helicopter or ground rescue team can get to you.

What to look for in an EPIRB-

# 406MHz

# Completely waterproof.

# Fitted with long life batteries capable of retaining up to 90% of their original Amp Hour capacity after 10 years.

# Safety seal which serves to indicate that the beacon has never been turned on and the batteries have not been used.

# Test facility to allow the beacons functionality to be tested without fear of accidentally transmitting a distress signal. The test actually measures the transmitters power output, not just the battery condition.

*Courtesy GME Emergency Beaconshttp://www.gme.net.au/epirb/index.php

It doesn't matter where you are in this great country, if you're in trouble and you carry an EPIRB, we can get to you.

AMSA has 5 bases around Australia each with a twin engine turbo prop Dornier 328 located in Perth, Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane and Essendon.

Our aircraft are fitted with specialist equipment to home into an EPIRB signal over land or water in day or night conditions. We're also fitted out with all types of communications equipment including a 40 Channel UHF 2-way which is most commonly used amongst 4WD enthusiasts so either way, we'll get to you.

So if you're planning that big trip, take piece of mind with you and carry and EPIRB, they range from $300 onwards and could save you life in any situation.

For more details log onto http://www.amsa.gov.au
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Reply By: Peter 2 - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 18:40

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 18:40
My understanding is that EPIRB's should only be activated when life is in imminent danger, not for a vehicle breakdown.
In your scenario it could be said that life is not in imminent danger and you could survive for quite a period if your vehicle is carrying food and water for at least a few weeks as it should if travelling in a remote area.
On the other hand if you have gone out there unprepared with food and water should thousands of dollars be spent rescuing you.
You don't need a fuel tank to keep the vehicle going seen a few jerrycans hooked up on the roofrack feeding fuel to the engine over the years.
Peter
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Reply By: The Geriatric Gypsies - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 18:47

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 18:47
not very often your out of hf range and it gives you a chance to think out side of the square
you dont work for gme do you

steve
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:03

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:03
Gday,
EPIRBs are probably a good idea but if you tell people where you are going and when you expect to arrive you are pretty safe.
It realy $hits me when people set off their EPIRBs because there car is bogged or they have a breakdown.
I use a HF and tell people what Im upto....I would much rather a mate come looking for me than the police and emergency services.

Cheers
Hairy
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:18

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:18
Whoops...that was meant to be a reply not follow up.
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Follow Up By: DIO - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:32

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:32
Only problem with your 'method' of just telling people where you are going and when you 'intend to return' is that people frequently change their mind(s) when travelling. Perhaps they find a great camp site and want to enjoy it for more than 5 minutes, meet up with like-minded people and want to enjoy some quality time etc. If they are in an isolated location and communications are dodgy, then family or friends will (may) advise authorities that they are overdue (perhaps) 1 - 5 days (or whatever) and a search is (may be) mounted. All the time travellers are enjoying their surroundings, relaxed and without a care in the world. Meanwhile search and rescue is in full swing, perhaps 3 - 5 aircraft, 10 - 15 ground vehicles and so on. Search continues for a couple of days, no result. Search Commander has to reassess what if any resources can continue to be utilised as a report of an activated EPIRB has been received 500 - 1000 km away. Does he continue to search for something or someone who may or may not be in trouble, lost, bogged, out of fuel, gone fishing etc against the receipt of an EPIRB activation where most likely someone's life is likely to be at risk.

It is good practice to advise family and friends of your planned itinerary HOWEVER you must also advise that if you haven't returned home by a certain time/date what steps they should take and who they should inform. Any search that is completely unnecessary places search members at risk, incurs substantial cost and wastes valuable resources. Under such circumstances a bill for relative expenses from authorities would be in order.

Too many people are poorly prepared and equipped for remote area travel. They often lack relative experience in such travel and are frequently incapable of vehicle maintenance and preservation. The biggest worry are those who by virtue of their age(s) are sometimes more pre-disposed to certain medical conditions and the further they travel away from the bigger cities etc the less likely they are to find appropriate medical intervention and care.
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 11:07

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 11:07
Dio,
Im not sure what your point is?
If you tell someone a plan of your trip you stick to it!!!!!
If you have a HF or Sat phone you could call them and change plans, if you cant get them...BAD LUCK.. you keep going as planned.
All of my mates are reliable and are smart enough to decide when help is needed. They know I wouldnt change plans without telling them and I know they will come with help at the best possible time. Thats why theyre mates.
Anyone who did like you suggested and decided to go fishing instead of sticking to their plans deserves to be left on their own. I dont know anyone that stupid and pitty you if you do.
Its really not rocket science.
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Reply By: samsgoneagain - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:06

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:06
who is this doodle. how can you be out of range of hf radio or sat phone
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:27

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:27
Sam, once more you have demonstrated your level of idiocy.

Brett has possibly done someone a service by bringing their attention to Personal Locator Beacons. The EO Shop has just started offering them for sale.

He didn't mention satphones, just Next G.

If you are injured and your partner does not know how to operate an HF radio, a PLB just needs a flick of a switch.

Brett said he just started working for a SAR organisation. He's just sharing his knowledge. Something you would struggle with.

Brett also put a Thread in here last week offering some items for sale because times were tough in his world. You don't kick a bloke when he's down. If you got rid of those railway sleepers on your shoulders you might start thinking properly.

Sam, why don't you just go, again.

Brett I appreciated your information. Well done mate. Keep posting.

I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
- Augustus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)

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Follow Up By: Member - Brett (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:06

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:06
Cheers mate. Some people just can't take some good advice these days.

And that's all it is, just advice, it's not like I'm throwing it down people's throats.

Anyhow.......
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Follow Up By: Member - Tony N (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 22:59

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 22:59
why are we still refering to them as EPIRBS the latest ones & I think the ones Brett is refering to are called PLB ( personal locator Beacons) . I have one & I hope I'll never need to flick the switch but as Gone Bush mentioned the info especially when lives are involved is always welcome
Appreciate the info Brett keep posting
Cheers Tony N
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Follow Up By: Pajman Pete (SA) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 14:08

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 14:08
Ah the macchi - constant speed, variable noise.
Any mug can be uncomfortable out bush

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Reply By: Member - Vince M (NSW) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:09

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:09
By setting of your epirb it is the same as sending a mayday. That means they can come & take you & your group even if you do not want to go & they do not have to help you in any other way other than to get you to a place of safety. Its then up to you to organize the recovery of your goods.
regards Vince
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Reply By: Member - Doug T (FNQ) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:24

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:24
As far as I'm concerned one should never be out of HF range , No matter where you you should be able to make a contact with VKS, if not that day but the next, if not in the morning then the afternoon . or other VKS Members somewhere in Australia.

'
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Follow Up By: robak (QLD) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 12:39

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 12:39
You will be out of HF range if your car burns down.
Therefore it's a good idea to keep your epirb in your "grab bag".
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Reply By: Member - Oldplodder (QLD) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:25

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:25
Been thinking through the same question, since we now planning more adventerous travels.

I understand EPIRBs are life threatening only. But still thinking of taking one for serious life in danger situation.

Are you talking VHF or UHF?

I am looking at possibly hiring if not buying VHF or satellite phone.

Previously, we usually travelled with a group of friends, minimum 3 vehicles, 4 is better. Old scout idea, if one breaks down, one stays with the disabled one, two go for help.

This forum is ideal for making contact with like travellers and forming such groups.

Even a holed fuel tank is not a major problem. Had a tank that kept splitting on cape york and managed to finish the trip without hassles. Catch what fuel you can in containers , fix the hole and put it back in. You usually smell it pretty soon.

Being cautous is your best preparation.
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Reply By: richard - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:59

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 19:59
May be Spot Messenger can be the in between tool for this type of scenario as you can send out help requests even though not life threatening - ie if it works as well as it says it does.


Oldman
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Reply By: Member - Brett (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:36

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:36
Tell me guys, when id a life threatening situation?

An everyday situation like getting bogged in a slat lake, beach or mud flat can very easily turn into a life threatening situation.

An EPIRB can be used in any situations of distress where you just can't get the help you need.

If you're out in the middle of no where and been bogged down or broken down in the same place for a few days or more without the sighting of another vehicle, are you going to wait and wait to see someone come past even though you've got ample food supplies for several days or are you going to get work at getting out of there as soon as possible?

These devices are there for you to activate when you need us to either come and get you or just drop supplies to you.

Don't wait till its to late!!!!

As for the HF going out of range, yes it does happen, yes it's happened to me and you all should know to never say never!!

During my time at Customs Coastwatch we had many periods of lossing HF comms 1000ft above the water in an aircraft, this is all due to atmospherics and current conditions. You can't tell me that a HF radio will be your last line of survival. Besides, not everyone carrier a HF radio, I don't.

I've been with the Navy since 1999, spent a year working for Customs Coastwatch and have now started working under contract for AMSA in aviation search and rescue, without blowing hot wind up my own backside, I do know some of what I'm talking about.

It's cheap and very very effective, I highly recommend having a PLB (personal locator beacon) or EPIRB with you on those trips that'll take you out in the middle of no where for long periods of time.

It makes my job a hell of a lot easier to come and get you if you have one.

What about this bloke in Victoria right now. How long has he been missing? What could have happened? Where the hell is he?

If he had an EPIRB then we could have found him a long time ago.

I just hope they find him before it's to late.
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Follow Up By: Member - Footloose - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:57

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:57
Could not the same effect be had with a decent sat phone ?
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Follow Up By: Member - Brett (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:59

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 20:59
Sure you can hire or buy a sat phone, but what's the difference in cost?

A sat phone you're paying for the use of the satellites, the expensive call time and the purchase price of the unit itself.

A personal EPIRB can cost anywhere from $300 to $450 for a decent one.
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Follow Up By: Member - Footloose - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:21

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:21
Both sat phones and HF radios can he hired, but you are right about the cost aspect. Please don't think that I'm against such devices, anything that brings a bit of comms to those hairy chested individuals who currently travel with nothing, is Ok in my book.
However HF and sat phones do have their individual strengths.
With a sat phone ypu can ring your mates and say "hey, guess where I am "
The HF allows you to check the cricket and footy scores. :)))
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Follow Up By: Member - Barnray (NSW) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:34

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:34
Sometimes an epirb is as useless as t's on a bull if you can't turn it on, Just like any other comm's. B
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Follow Up By: Member - Brett (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:38

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:38
All EPIRBs are very easy to turn on, it's one easy switch. Can't be harder than that.
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Follow Up By: Member - Footloose - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:40

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:40
Banray, Murphy can strike at anything. But usually only once at a time.
You can have problems getting up in the morning....so what ?
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 15:38

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 15:38
Brett

A good point (and post), anything can turn into a life threatening situation....I'm sure the authroities don't want these things going off because someones staked a tyre, but if someone's staked a tyre and is now in a life-threatening situation an EPIRB when be a good addition to your safety/communication kit.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 15:39

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 15:39
Brett

A good point (and post), anything can turn into a life threatening situation....I'm sure the authroities don't want these things going off because someones staked a tyre, but if someone's staked a tyre and is now in a life-threatening situation an EPIRB when be a good addition to your safety/communication kit.
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Reply By: mike w (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:05

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:05
Some good points there Brett, and some sage advice.

Even with all the communications equipment in the world available to you, it doesnt take much for problems and malfunctions to arise. I wonder how many HF owners out there would actually know how to recognise and repair a bad electrical contact or blown fuse on their HF set...waiting, waiting... . I know that there are many people, especially from places such as exploroz that could, but I bet my first born, that many people wouldnt be able to instigate simple repairs to get these sorts of minor malfunctions rectified- hence nil communicante

An EPIRB/PLB is cheap insurance, whether you use it as a primary means or as a back up to your HF/satphone/jam tin and string.

And think about it, how much more dramatic would your ordeal look to the media if a multiaganency SAR op was instigated- you could sell the story to the media and reap the benefits from its sale, and have piece of mind that the fed govt has paid for it;)
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:28

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:28
Well - for starters you won't be out of HF range ..... and for seconds - Roothie would fix it 'cos he would have a bowling ball with him, coated in spinifex resin (thanks Les) and he'd jam it into the hole - that'd do it.
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Follow Up By: Member - Footloose - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:42

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 21:42
Piece of string between two of his empty VB cans should do the trick.
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Reply By: Member - Olcoolone (S.A) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 22:20

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 22:20
One of the down sides of only having an Epirb and setting it off in an emergency is you don't know how far help is away....is it 1 hour or 5 hours.

If Some one needs urgent medical assistance or you need urgent advice the only sure method is a HF radio or sat phone.

By using HF radio or sat hone you may be able to be put in contact with someone close by like an outpost or homestead who can help you.

The last thing we need is people traveling the out back thinking that the only things they need is a mobile phone and a Epirb.

As someone else said you get bogged or break down and you only have an Epird and you set it off just think how much money it is costing us tax payers for a full scale search and rescue not forgetting the man power.....

I would be very annoyed is I needed urgent medical help and the people coming to me got diverted to a so called emergency of some one having a flat battery.



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Follow Up By: Member - Brett (WA) - Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 23:45

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 23:45
Thats why there's always more than one asset ready to come out. each year we get called to false alarms but each time we get that call we treat it as a real one. From the time you activate your EPIRB / PLB we can be in the air within 60 minutes of that activation.

Majority of the time the first thing we drop to you is a stores container with a radio, you tell us what you need and we can drop more stores to you pretty much straight away. That could be first aid, tools, water, food and shelter. We always carry everything on the aircraft.

Like I said though guys, this is just some helpful tips to take on board, I'm not saying "you have to" but it makes our job easier to find you and help you when you need it.

Anyhow, each to their own.
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Follow Up By: Member - Olcoolone (S.A) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 09:18

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 09:18
I'm not bagging you Brett but unfortunately a lot of 4Wheel Drives have the mentality of "I haven't needed it before so why do I need it now" or "It wont happen to me and if it does I'll know what to do"

Australia is a big place and you can lead a dog to water but you can not get them to drink it, everyone knows the dangers and what gear they should have and there is no excuse for not being able to afford the gear even if it is only a HF radio, sat phone or Epirb.

If you can't afford $500 for a Epirb or $1000 for a sat phone or HF radio how the hell are you going to afford $6000 for a funeral?

It amazes me what monitory value people put on the lives and that of there loved ones......obviously to some it 's less then $500.

You say you can be in the air within 60 minutes but how long does it takes you the get to seen....
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Follow Up By: Member - Brett (WA) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:30

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:30
Well that all depends on where you are and if we have to refuel on the way. We can travel up to 600kph so that all depends on where you are.

Here's a link to the information on the aircraft we use.

http://www.amsa.gov.au/Publications/Fact_sheets/Dornier(12-06).pdf
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Reply By: Redback - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 08:50

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 08:50
If you have all 3, you can't go wrong realy can you, but if all 3 don't work, then you stick your head between your legs and.......well you know the rest, that is of coarse if you haven't broken a leg or something else.

I know maybe a box of matches would be best, then you could light a fire and send smoke signals, or maybe carry a drum and beat out an SOS.

Some of you blokes need ya head read, bagging a bloke for giving good sensible information that could save a life.

Baz.
AnswerID: 305882

Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:21

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 10:21
Gday Brett,
I dont think anyone is bagging anyone like Redback is trying to suggest, but rather bring a few things out in the open which is what this forum is all about.
I personally think PLBs or EPIRBs or whatever you want to call them are a fantastic idea and have a place in a lot of situations but not all.
I personally cannot afford a PLB, EPIRB, Sat phone, HF, UHF, VHF, 27 MEG, phone and another trailer to carry it all in.
I have a HF radio...why? Because 15-20 years ago they were the most practical solution for where I live and the way I travel.
I have had to call for help before and have been called, Ive gone out to rescue mates and been rescued.
None of these occations would have an EPIRB been any good to me.
When Im ready to buiry the HF I will probably go for a Sat phone, as they have more uses in my situation.

The only problem I see with EPIRBs is, its like most things these days...they can sometimes releive people of responsibility. You know the story....they will take the EPIRB rather than extra water and food...If they get into trouble they can flick the switch. People also go into places on their own where they normaly wouldnt go, and instead of preparing for the worst and taking the right gear they can just set off the EPIRB.

Im not sure if you heard about the tourists a while ago at Boggy Hole NT?
They set off there EPIRB after becomming Bogged in the River Bed. If they new a bit more about the area they would have just waited for a car to come through. Or if they invested in a Manual the could have locked their hubs in and drove out themselves.
Instead Police, Rangers, Emergency volunteers and a plane is sent out...if only they had a Sat phone instead.
PLBs certainly have their place! But I reckon knowing how to survive, geting yourself out of bad situation and even more importantly knowing how to avoid them should be the first thing you do before heading out bush.

Good on you for bringing it up and it sounds like you do a good job.

Cheers
Hairy
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Reply By: Best Off Road - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:05

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:05
Excellent advice Brett. For a measly $300 (as a part of the overall cost of a big trip)......well as old "Bum Nose" Karl Malden used to say, "Don't leave home without it."

Jim.

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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:41

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:41
Hi Jim

Used to be $300 (which meant it was a "must buy") but the new UHF units are $450 without or $610 with GPS. I'm not short of a bob or two but at that price, given I have a HF radio, I'm starting to wonder if I _really_ need to replace my VHF EPIRB.

http://www.ja-gps.com.au/epirb_mt410_plb.htm

Mike Harding
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Reply By: KiwiAngler - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:45

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 16:45
As one previous poster mentioned

SPOT Messenger Home page

Is worth looking at too
Follow me via SPOT:

https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=2d464de362759825a

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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 17:31

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 17:31
Looks very interesting - thanks.

I shall follow it up.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: KiwiAngler - Monday, May 26, 2008 at 21:23

Monday, May 26, 2008 at 21:23
I have had one for a while now and am very happy that it 'fills the gap' between GSM/NextG/UHF/HF/Sat - spot - EPIRB

If you would like any additional info (that you don't get off their website) I am only too happy to try and answer them for you.
Follow me via SPOT:

https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=2d464de362759825a

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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 09:52

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 09:52
Thanks KiwiAngler - I've started a new thread:

Spot Messenger thread
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Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 20:40

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 20:40
"Travelling to remote areas? Who's there for you when things go wrong?"

Go see 'Wolfe Creek'.

There is always someone there to help you.
AnswerID: 306183

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