Aug 142008

Not, strictly speaking, a maritime accident or close call but this incident in the Orkneys does cover many familiar situations: The couple didn’t know where they were, shades of The Case Of The Baffling Bays, The Case Of The Wandering Monarch, and let’s not forget Cosco Busan. They didn’t take account of the changeability of the weather (The Case Of The Unlucky Hooker) . They hadn’t done their homework, ie, no proper ‘passage plan’, weren’t wearing the right clothing for the conditions and didn’t have the right communications equipment.

All very familiar. Just don’t tell Alfred Hitchcock.

Here’s the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency account:

“At five past five this evening Shetland Coastguard received a call from a local Coastguard Rescue Officer in Orkney informing them that he had received a report of a couple who had become lost in the hills at Hoy.

“The couple had previously been in contact with the local RSPB warden as they had been lost for a large portion of the day and, wearing only very light clothing, they had become disoerientated and frightened. Further to this, the female had suffered an injury to her ankle, and they were being attacked by birds nesting in the area. As the local warden was unable to locate the casualties, he contacted the local Coastguard volunteer for help, who informed Shetland Coastguard.

“Shetland Coastguard made contact with the couple, however communications were extremely difficult due to poor mobile phone coverage in the area, and signal was repeatedly lost. Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 102 was scrambled to the scene and used the clock face method to locate them. This involved the crew positioning the helicopter in the area and asking the couple to describe the direction the aircraft was facing in until they were found.

“Once the couple were located they were taken into the helicopter where they were transported to Kirkwall to meet with Police to discuss what happened.

“Shetland Coastguard Watch Manager Kathy Grant said:

“The couple were obviously quite distressed when they were located as, not only were they cold and scared, the female was unable to walk due to an ankle injury. Further to this, they were suffering attacks from Great Skuas, which are aggressive birds which will dive bomb you if you approach their nests. Not only can this be extremely unnerving if you are not used to these animals, they can also cause some fairly serious injuries.

“The couple were only wearing t-shirts when they were located and were wholly unprepared for the events that occurred. They were not prepared for the changeable weather in the area, they were outside of their comfort zone and were not equipped with anything to assist them when they found themselves in difficulty. We always advise walkers to remain on marked paths where possible and to arm yourself with equipment such as appropriate communications devices, a torch, map or even walking flares in the event that you become lost. Always wear appropriate clothing and prepare well for cold and rain.”


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