Someone’s elderly relative has wandered off and can’t be found; someone went hunting and hasn’t returned when he said he would; a couple of friends were tramping and got separated; climbers at a high alpine hut saw someone fall; someone pushed the button on a personal-locator beacon.
All these scenarios lead to a ‘SAROP” – a search and rescue operation. Most calls come through the Police 111 system or from beacon activation, through the satellite-signal reception at the Rescue Coordination Headquarters in Wellington.
In Wanaka, we aim to respond to a call within 30 minutes. Volunteers are called – both to manage the operation and to head out in the ‘field’. At our headquarters in Ballantyne Road, they get geared up and briefed.
These days search and rescue is more of a science than an art. The SAR process means finding a lost person through the application of theory and experience in a race against time. Judgement calls have to be made on the basis of often very skimpy information; and more information has to be urgently gathered.
Wanaka Search and Rescue operates in some of New Zealand’s most mountainous and rugged terrain, including glaciers and high alpine areas above the permanent snowline; rivers and canyons; and precipitous bush-clad gorges and bluffs. Mount Aspiring National Park is a huge and diverse area, mountains, rivers and dense forest.
(+) click for larger view. Many thanks to Geographx for the use of the Mount Aspiring NP graphic