Monday, February 16, 2009

Talk about a flash of genius!

Full marks for creativity and level-headedness to Malcolm Murray on the Isle of Lewis, near Scotland.

MANY climbers and walkers plucked to safety from Scotland's treacherous, ice-bound moors and mountains are condemned by their rescuers as ill-equipped, crazy and even suicidal.

Yesterday, Malcolm Murray became possibly the first survivor of a major search and rescue operation to be branded "a genius".

The 23-year-old amazed and impressed his rescuers by using a camera flash to penetrate the thick mist that had caused him to become hopelessly lost, and catch the attention of a helicopter pilot.

The resourceful student faced a slow and lingering death from cold after losing his way on Barvas Moor, Lewis, as melting ice and snow left him thigh-deep in freezing water and thick mist left him hopelessly disorientated.

. . .

The only useful equipment Murray had with him was a mobile phone, which he kept working as long as possible by rubbing it in his hands to keep it warm, and a compact camera. These two gadgets effectively saved his life.

. . .

Murray walked towards what he thought was the Pentland Road, the single track that crosses the moor, connecting the Lewis capital of Stornoway with the island's west coast.

In fact, he was heading ever deeper in to the moor. Realising how serious the situation was becoming, he phoned his father, Murdo Murray, a recently retired senior council official who used to be responsible for helping to co-ordinate emergency operations in the Western Isles.

. . .

Four rescue teams, each numbering five men, set off to find Murray on foot. The Coastguard also scrambled its helicopter. However, the teams couldn't get a fix on Murray's mobile because Lewis doesn't have enough masts to provide triangulation.

Finally, Murray got a lucky break and made use of it. He said: "I could see the helicopter lights coming and going."

So, when the chopper got close, he pressed his camera flash over and over again, lighting up the misty, pitch-black sky, both to the naked eye and the helicopter's sophisticated infrared systems.

"It was the only source of light I could think of," he said.

Murray's flash was spotted by Captain Richard "Tricky" Dane on board Stornoway Coastguard's new state-of-the-art Sikorsky S92 helicopter. "It really was very clever use of the equipment he had with him," Dane said. "We were taxi-hovering along, just 10 to 15 feet off the ground and we could only see about 100 yards ahead of us. Then I spotted a flash in the sky and our winchman, Phil Warrington, used the infrared to see two little red blotches, one of Malcolm and the other of Buttons. It really was the flash that saved him."

A Coastguard spokeswoman said: "The guy was lucky and managed to flash a couple of times. It was quite ingenious."

Another rescuer was more emphatic. "The chap is a bit of a genius," he said.

There's a lot more at the link.

Quick thinking and brilliant improvisation in a life-threatening situation. Well done, Mr. Murray!



Old NFO said...

Dumbass for getting lost, smart for using the camera... Guess that evens out, except for the $4000/hr for the helo...

Anonymous said...

Compass?? Anyone??

Xavier said...

Good stuff!