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Posts Tagged ‘rescue’

Photo: Hikespeak.
Because it’s possible to get permanently lost in the Mt. Waterman area of the Angeles National Forest, a hiker was lucky that someone in a different part of California had a hobby identifying the location of photos
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People have unusual hobbies, things they like to dig deep into just because. A stranger’s passion for figuring out where photos were taken turned out to be lucky for hiker Rene Compean. Sydney Page at the Washington Post has the life-and-death story.

“When Rene Compean snapped a photo of his soot-stained legs hanging over a steep cascade of rocks, he feared it was the last picture he’d ever take. Hopelessly lost while hiking in Southern California, he thought he might die. … He repeatedly yelled for help and used charred sticks to write SOS on any open surfaces he could find.

“Compean had trekked through the Angeles National Forest trails more times than he could count, he said, but after venturing along a new path April 12 — for what he intended to be a two-hour outing — he lost his way.

“Several hours into the solo hike, after many failed attempts at getting his bearings, he was scared. The temperature was dropping fast in the remote, rugged terrain, and the winds were whipping.

“Compean grabbed his cellphone, which had less than 10 percent battery remaining, and climbed to a spot where he was able to get at least one bar of signal.

” ‘SOS. My phone is going to die. I’m lost,’ Compean texted a friend, along with two photos showing where he was — though only one went through. It was the picture of his legs.

“The photo offered minimal information and, given Compean’s lack of cellphone signal, the resolution was very low. More importantly, though, Compean didn’t realize his location settings were disabled on his phone.

“Still, the grainy image was somehow detailed enough for a total stranger to decipher the hiker’s exact location.

“Ben Kuo was working at his home about 60 miles away in Ventura County, Calif., when he stumbled upon a tweet from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, along with the photo of Compean’s legs.

“The sheriff’s search-and-rescue teams had already spent the previous night unsuccessfully looking for Compean, so they released the photograph to the public hoping someone could help.

“Sgt. John Gilbert said they figured Compean was on the mountain at about 7,000 feet elevation, and the blasts of wind were ‘definitely a concern.’ …

“The department tweeted: ‘Are You an Avid Hiker in the Mt. Waterman Area? #LASD SAR Teams need help locating a #missing hiker.’

Kuo, 47, inspected the image and thought, ‘I bet I could find that spot,’ he recalled.

“Kuo works in the tech industry, but he is also an amateur radio operator. For several years, as a hobby, he has used his Twitter account to alert the public about natural disasters. He regularly examines satellite imagery to identify and track local wildfires.

“Plus, he has another unusual pastime: ‘I have always loved looking for where photos are taken,’ Kuo said. He frequently tries to identify where movie scenes, television shows or commercials were filmed. …

“So when he came across the blurry image of Compean’s legs surrounded by an endless landscape of rocks and vegetation, he instinctively pulled up a satellite map. Since the sheriff’s department said Compean’s car was found near Buckhorn Campground, he narrowed his search to the surrounding area.

‘There’s an amazing amount of information you can get from satellites,’ said Kuo, who is also a hiker, though he has never visited the area where Compean was lost.

“The first thing he noticed in the picture were patches of greenery. ‘I realized he’s got to be on the south side because there’s not really any green valleys on the north side,’ he explained.

“That finding tightened his search considerably and helped him zero in on one area that closely resembled the terrain in the image. The final step was cross-referencing the original photo with Google Earth and comparing specific details.

“ ‘By punching in the time and date that the photo was taken, you can compare the view in Google Earth,’ said Kuo. ‘They matched.’

“He shared a screenshot of the satellite imagery on Twitter and called the sheriff’s department to notify officials of the coordinates he uncovered.

“After vetting the findings in relation to the information they were able to glean about Compean’s whereabouts, ‘we felt pretty confident that Ben’s information was good,’ Gilbert said. A search-and-rescue team swiftly boarded a helicopter and flew to the area.”

Read what happened next at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Nadia Tugwell.
After the koala caused a multi-vehicle crash by ‘stomping’ on an Australian freeway, Nadia Tugwell put it in her car and called for help. The koala played around with the car’s steering wheel while waiting for Adelaide Koala Rescue and was ultimately released at a safe distance.

It was only last summer, when bushfires raged through koala habitat in Australia, that the adorable marsupials were threatened with extinction (story). Here’s a recent article about one that got itself into a different kind of danger but stayed calm and carried on.

Josh Taylor reported at the Guardian, “A koala crossing one of South Australia’s busiest freeways has led to a six-car pile-up as drivers abandoned their vehicles to mount a rescue of the ‘calm’ marsupial.

“[South Australia] police confirmed the multi-car crash occurred on Adelaide’s South Eastern Freeway. … A male driver reportedly was the first person to stop his car to try to rescue the koala before 7am. His car was then hit from behind, causing a chain reaction.

“An Adelaide woman, Nadia Tugwell, was behind the pile-up and said at first she couldn’t tell what was causing the delay in traffic. … Then Tugwell saw the koala moving between the cars and a concrete barrier in the middle of the freeway.

“ ‘The koala was just cute … sort of stomping between the cars and the barrier. Then I saw a lady running behind it, trying to catch it with a blanket or something.’

“Tugwell grabbed a jacket from her car and also raced towards the koala.

‘When it saw me it instantly turned around to run backwards but the other lady was there and so we jumped it, bundled it up, and it ended up in my car because she had children,’ she said.

“Tugwell had previously rescued animals from other roads so she had the number for the Adelaide Koala Rescue centre saved in her phone. She arranged to meet them at a nearby service station.

“While she waited an hour for the rescuer to arrive, Tugwell said the koala made itself at home in her car, including on the steering wheel.

“ ‘I was sitting there entertaining myself but I had to jump out of the car at that stage when he decided to take over,’ she said. …

“ ‘He was actually quite a calm koala, he didn’t even fight about being in the bag, he was just calm and went into the basket,’ Tugwell said.

“The volunteer released the uninjured koala back into the wild a kilometre from the freeway.

“An Adelaide Koala Rescuer volunteer, Ann Bigham, told the ABC, … ”The koala was in really good condition, it was lucky it hadn’t been hit at all and thanks to the rescuers it was kept safe.’ “

Wouldn’t it be something to have that experience? I’d love to be a koala hero like Tugwell. Can’t see it happening in New England, though.

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Reuters Marketplace/UK World Online Report.
Endangered Green Sea Turtles are placed in bins and kiddie pools to help them warm up gradually.

Sometimes a crisis can bring out the best in human nature. Consider all the people making food for health-care workers in the pandemic or the volunteers manning pantries for 2020’s many unemployed.

This morning, as I was reading about the failure of the Texas electric grid, I learned that one supermarket, having suddenly lost power, couldn’t operate cash registers and let customers go home without paying.

Meanwhile, Texas nature lovers, despite hardships of their own, are rescuing sea turtles from the extreme cold. Many thanks to Hannah for pointing me to the story.

Raechel Allen reports at Slate, “An unprecedented winter storm provoked massive disruption in Texas this week: Millions lost power, hundreds were displaced from homes. [And] because of the temperature, thousands and thousands of sea turtles cannot move.

“An endangered species, these sea turtles usually live off the waters of South Padre Island, which is off the southern coast of Texas. Over the past week, they’ve been loaded into dinner cruise boats and minivans. The rescue center at the nonprofit Sea Turtle Inc. is used to rehabilitating injured sea turtles and responding to minor cold snaps but cannot hold all the turtles — so they’re also filling up a convention center. … Slate spoke to Wendy Knight, Sea Turtle Inc.’s executive director. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Rachael Allen: Can you walk me through what’s been going on this week with the turtles?
Wendy Knight: We are in the midst of the single largest cold-stun event in history. We have approximately 4,800 cold-stunned, federally protected, endangered sea turtles. … On Sunday things really started to hype up and we had local boat owners go out and find hundreds of floating sea turtles.

“What does it mean for a sea turtle to be cold-stunned?
“Sea turtles are cold-blooded so they need the temperature of water to regulate their own body temperature. … If the water gets below a certain temperature, the turtles are no longer able to sustain their own body temperature. Usually, they don’t think about all of their instincts — moving their flippers to swim, eating, diving to the bottom of the ocean, lifting their head up to draw breath. In a cold-stun event, they’re still aware they need to do those things, but because their body is frozen, or cold-stunned, it’s is not reacting to the instinct message. As a result they’re not able to swim, so the turtle floats to the top of the water and because their body is not responding by lifting their head to breathe, they drown in the ocean. I’m sure as we get farther away from the stun event, there will be perished turtles found, regardless of our best efforts.

“How did your team rescue thousands of turtles?
“This is a nesting beach where thousands and thousands of hatchlings are born each season, so everybody is keenly aware that we’re sharing space with sea turtles. We have almost 500 registered volunteers, plus all the city employees, who participate in training at the beginning of cold-stun season. That plan was executed here, just on a much bigger scale.

It’s important to remember that when all this was happening these hundreds of community members didn’t have power of their own. They hadn’t had electricity or running water in days. …

“They had their own personal tragedy happening. And despite that, they took time away to serve an animal that can’t serve itself.

“I can’t explain what it’s like to stand in a convention center that’s probably a football field and a half, and see 4,200 sea turtles laying tip to toe as far as the eye can see. And that’s not even all of them — that’s the overflow. … Nothing happens when they’re stunned — no bodily functions. It’s like a catatonic state. The best thing you can do is to let them rest. As things go along, they will start to wake up, but there are consequences that can come from cold stuns that require antibiotics and IV therapy, like pneumonia. We’ll watch them all closely, and as they recover and become more alert, we’ll start releasing them incrementally back into the Gulf of Mexico.”

I shouldn’t overlook the fact that there are people who volunteer year-round. Which is just to say that it doesn’t always take a crisis to bring out the best in human nature. More at Slate, here.

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Photo: Barbara Crossette/PassBlue
Fathiah Zakham studied tuberculosis in Yemen until a bomb destroyed the university where she was working. Through the Scholar Rescue Fund, she received safe haven in Helsinki, Finland, to study.

Scholars and scholarship are generally endangered in authoritarian countries and in war zones. Fortunately, there are activists determined to keep the search for truth alive among all nationalities. The Scholar Rescue Fund was established to place refugee scholars in safe institutions where they can continue their work. Even in today’s isolationist America, refugee scholars are getting a future.

Deborah Amos reported on international placement efforts at National Public Radio (NPR) last fall.

“Around the globe, more scholars are now threatened and displaced than since World War II began. In response, U.S. universities have sponsored endangered scholars and recently created a consortium that offers a broader academic community to refugee scholars threatened by war and authoritarian governments.

” ‘There is a moral obligation to do something,’ said Arien Mack, a psychology professor at New York City’s New School for Social Research, who launched Endangered Scholars Worldwide in 2007 to draw attention to the threats facing academics. She now oversees the New University in Exile Consortium, which will bring exiled scholars together over the next two years for seminars, workshops and conferences. The New School has recruited 10 other universities to the consortium, and is urging more to join. …

” ‘We are trying to nurture intellectual capital, we are saving brains,’ Mack said at a Sept. 6 event in New York City to launch the project. ‘Even when [refugee scholars] are safe, what is painfully absent is that they don’t get integrated, they are isolated, they suffer from estrangement.’ …

“Syrian academic Mohammad Alahmad, a specialist in Arabic literature, had to negotiate with Islamist radicals to continue teaching at Al-Furat University’s campus in Raqqa. In 2014, the militants declared Raqqa the capital of the Islamic State. …

“He escaped the city with his family, smuggling them across a dangerous border into Turkey after ISIS shut down his university. He was awarded a fellowship by the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, an organization that helps arrange emergency placement and funds for academic figures at risk. He was matched with Georgetown University where he is now a lecturer at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. …

“The Scholar Rescue Fund, established in 2002, has helped more than 700 scholars find academic placements in 43 countries. About 40 percent have been placed in American educational institutions.

“Indian activist and academic Binalakshmi Nepram says her work advocating for gender rights and a women-led disarmament movement in her home state of Manipur, in northeast India, led to threats and intimidation. … Now she is a visiting scholar in residence at Connecticut College.

” ‘We have all left everything behind,’ she said. … Her placement in Connecticut is a lifeline. She has continued her activism, giving a recent lecture on how the women of Manipur state worked together to confront violence in a decades-old armed conflict between insurgents and the Indian military.

‘Before I got this job, [American] people told me I could be a bartender or a babysitter,’ she said. ‘Every job has its dignity, but we have our skills.’

More at NPR, here.

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What I liked about this story on rescuers in Iceland was how the volunteer tradition started when “women banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea.” The part that wasn’t so great was about tourists endangering everyone with harebrained feats for their bucket list.

Nick Paumgarten writes at the New Yorker, “Iceland, with a population of little more than three hundred thousand, is the only NATO country with no standing Army. It has police, and a coast guard, but these, like the citizens they are paid to protect, are spread thin, so come accident or disaster, disappearance or storm, the citizens, for the most part, have always had to fend for themselves.

“[Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg, or, in English, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue] has evolved into a regimented volunteer system that serves as a peerless kind of national-emergency militia. It is not a government program, and so represents a tithing of manpower. There are close to ten thousand members in all, with four thousand of them on ‘callout’ duty, on ninety-seven teams. … They are well trained and well equipped, self-funded and self-organizing, and enjoy a near-mythical reputation among their countrymen, who, though often agnostic regarding the existence of elves and gnomes, are generally not inclined toward reverence or exaggeration. …

“Landsbjörg traces its roots back to the formation, in 1918, of a rescue team in the Westman Islands, an archipelago just off the southern coast. The women on shore banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea, and in time other fishing communities established similar groups and protocols. Eventually, the fishing industry, as it grew, supported these efforts with donations. On land, farmers, left to their own devices, looked after each other, as they will.” More at the New Yorker, here.

You may get a kick out of the fundraising based on selling fireworks. Setting them off is legal in Iceland once a year. “Last year, Icelanders blew up five hundred tons of fireworks.”

Photo: Benjamin Lowy / Getty Images for The New Yorker
“People think of the rescue teams as the Guardians of the Galaxy,” a mountain guide said. “They forget these are normal people.”

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