Ocean Signal: Hiker Highlights Benefits of Personal Locator Beacons After Using Ocean Signal Device to Call for Rescue

“It’s the best money we’ve ever spent” – Clive Cresswell
A hiker from New Zealand is using his personal rescue story to highlight the life-saving power of a pocket-sized PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) when carried by outdoor and marine enthusiasts.
Experienced trampers from Tolaga Bay Clive Cresswell, 59, and his wife, Marie, a 53-year-old nurse at Te Puia Springs Hospital, were crossing the main Ruahine Range in the North Island, from Maropea Forks hut to Sparrowhawk bivvy, in October last year when mist and then a violent hailstorm left them exposed in bitterly cold conditions in a section of open tussock at 1500m altitude.
With Marie showing signs of hypothermia, they dropped off the ridge into shelter and decided to activate their Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 at about 2pm.
The national search and rescue co-ordination centre in Wellington pinpointed the hikers’ location, but the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter from Hastings could not reach them because of the extreme wind and low cloud. A ground team was then dispatched from Hawkes Bay Search and Rescue and they managed to locate the stranded couple at 3am. Later that morning, the group tried to walk out but the country proved impossible to traverse and the helicopter was called again to fly the Cresswells back to their vehicle.
“I know it’s a cliché, but it’s the best money we’ve ever spent,” Mr Cresswell told the Hawke’s Bay Today website about his purchase of the PLB from Ocean Signal’s New Zealand distributor Lusty & Blundell for about $550.
“Without our PLB we could have been in very serious trouble,” Mr Cresswell added. “At first, we had some cell phone signal, but reception was patchy. Then, when we dropped down lower to get shelter in the bush for the night, we had no signal at all. There is no way the ground team could have found us in the dark without the signal from the PLB and even in daylight it could have taken a long time.”
Police Hawke’s Bay search head Detective Senior Sergeant Martin James believes Mrs Cresswell may not have survived if not for the PLB, and the heroics of the Hawke’s Bay Land Search and Rescue chairman Michael Hawthorne, fellow LandSAR volunteers Michael Lydiard and Ben Watson, and policeman Constable Jared Whitaker, according to the Hawke’s Bay Today website. “They knew where they were,” Mr James said. “It was just a matter of reaching them, and extracting them from the ranges.”
Charlie Beetham, Chief Pilot at the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter, said: “In an emergency situation, where time is critical, Personal Locator Beacons can save lives. They allow rescue services to accurately pinpoint your exact location, even in rural or remote areas, or under cover of darkness.”
“I have been hunting and tramping since 1975 and Marie since 1979, mainly in the Ruahine and adjacent Kaweka ranges, so we know the area quite well and have never got into serious difficulty before,” added Mr Cresswell. “I chose the Ocean Signal unit in particular because it’s the smallest and lightest available. Your PLB needs to be easy to slip in a pocket every time you go out, even if you are only half a mile from your vehicle or a hut, so it makes sense to get the most compact one you can. I have become a great advocate of PLB’s and urge anyone to buy and use one.”
Ocean Signal Sales and Marketing Manager James Hewitt said: “Even the most experienced and well prepared trampers, hikers and sailors can find themselves in trouble due to weather conditions, illness or injury. In remote or inaccessible regions or when at sea, the only chance of contacting the rescue authorities may be by activating beacon such as our rescueME PLB1.
“We are always pleased to hear about successful rescues and that the people involved are safe and well. A lot of credit always goes to the rescue authorities, but their job locating the survivor is made a lot easier when a beacon has been activated. A PLB is a relatively small investment for anyone who enjoys boating or any outdoor activities in remote areas, but it provides reassurance that rescue is always at hand in an emergency.”
Suitable for use on land or at sea, Ocean Signal’s rescueME PLB1 is the world’s smallest personal locator beacon and is specifically designed to be small and light enough to carry or attach to clothing for instant access to emergency services at the press of a button. Once activated, the PLB1 communicates the location of a survivor to search and rescue services via the designated 406MHz Cospas-Sarsat satellite system with position provided by a 66 channel GPS. The device also incorporates a 121.5MHz homing beacon, plus high intensity (1 candela) strobe light.
For more information on the new Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1 and range of products, please go to the website at www.oceansignal.com.
Ocean Signal operates as a unit of Florida-based ACR Electronics, Inc., a global leader in safety and survival technologies. Both ACR Electronics and Ocean Signal provide a free beacon replacement service for survivors who share their stories. A growing list of survivors from Australia and New Zealand who activated beacons in a life-threatening emergency have joined the ACR’s SurvivorClub to share their stories and help raise awareness about the best practices to ensure safety, both on land and at sea.