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  1. #101
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by treroach View Post
    Traveler - Thanks for sharing great wisdom there; those are truly words to live by.

    4eyedbuzzard - I was hiking the AT near Stratton, ME, in July 2013, when I was surprised to see a man and his canine companion emerge from the 'impenetrable forest'. They were locals who were a part of the massive SAR effort to find Inchworm. We all know the unfortunate ending, but there's no doubt the effort to find her was substantial. And although I'm not well-versed with cell phones, I have a little more understanding of SAR. You are certainly right that managing volunteers can be an enormous task in itself, and that on occasion, the risk of having volunteers involved can outweigh the potential benefit. This does not appear to be such an occasion. Additionally, there were numerous offers at least as early as Monday from well-qualified, professional units to which the local authorities responded with 'at this time, we are not seeking assistance'. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but we now know that the 'problem' wasn't solved, and the 'additional trouble' of having more searchers may have, in fact, saved a life. BTW, I did read up a bit on cell phones/GPS and spoke with a few people who know much more than I do about the technology (not hard to find someone who fits the description!)... everything I've turned up so far indicates that, if you can make a phone call, your phone's GPS can tell you where you are. If you can provide any source that indicates otherwise, I'd be obliged. Take care - as you know, I'm also a 'metroplexer', but I spent several years living up in NH as well, and always consider the Whites my 'second home'.
    Hey, I agree that under most conditions if a phone can connect to make a call that it also probably can get and even transmit a GPS fix. But if they (Dawson County) couldn't access the GPS data on the emergency services side (which isn't always possible with old technology or in remote areas), or if the wireless carrier couldn't access location data (and they might only know which tower his phone pinged which would only give them a radius if there weren't two or three of the same carriers towers "visible"), or if he didn't know how to use his phone's apps to access GPS coordinates and then verbally communicate the GPS coordinates to emergency services, they (911) just simply wouldn't have GPS coordinates. There are also legal/privacy issues regarding this stuff, but they are off-topic.

    Remember that according to reports, they only had a idea of his general location at a certain point of time (the call and then the later ping), likely estimated from his start point, anticipated route, and a tower location and it's effective coverage area due to terrain. But his phone went off line/dead after they were able to ping it the one time after the actual voice call. They (911) never reported having a GPS fix from his phone - only a general area location, but even if they did, if he was moving it was stale info by the time they got resources out. We just don't have the details. He lived in Eden, NC approx 300 miles from Amicalola Falls. When GPS receivers are moved large distances, they often need updated almanac and ephemeral data in order to resolve a fix. So, there is also the possible scenario that he had no data service or access to an aGPS server because he was roaming or had a limited data plan of some sort, and/or never turned his phone on until after he was lost and placed the call, resulting in GPS data not being able to be resolved - it could take quite some time for his phone to resolve a GPS fix if the almanac and ephemeral data had to be updated via satellite data speeds (and I quite honestly don't even know if all phone GPS systems will download using that method, I only assume that they do).
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 02-22-2020 at 18:32.

  2. #102

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    Well, for what ever reason they weren't able to get a decent fix on his location.

    I just checked my flip phone. Emergency location data is an option which came factory disabled. Maybe I should turn it on? It's possible this is the default setting for cell phones. I think Google turned on the emergency location data option when I enabled their location services for maps on my smart phone.

    The mystery still remains - how did he end up where he was found and for what reason?
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  3. #103

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    When GPS receivers are moved large distances, they often need updated almanac and ephemeral data in order to resolve a fix. So, there is also the possible scenario that he had no data service and/or never turned his phone on until after he was lost and placed the call, resulting in GPS data not being available - it could take quite some time for his phone to resolve a GPS fix if the almanac and ephemeral data had to be updated via satellite data speeds (and I don't even know if phone GPS will download using that method).
    Yes, that's just what I was thinking based on what I've been learning about GPS through this informative discussion.

    Before seeing your post, I was just about to send the following:

    Personally, I have never had been ever to use my cell phone without my GPS working as well. I can't recall ever having a cell phone conversation in a tunnel either, but you may have better reception where you are of course (and you may have more tunnels as well!). Having thru-hiked the AT twice over the last decade, and hiked the New England section an additional two times, I have never had this happen to me. Last year, I hiked from Pawling, NY, to Katahdin, and GPS worked everywhere 100%, while cell phone service was spotty at best in places. I hope these credentials dispel the trolling nonsense.

    Nearly everything I've researched over the last few days, and the few knowledgeable people I've asked about this points to an extremely low probability of having cell phone coverage without GPS capability. The two systems, in fact, are not so separate anymore it seems, so the already low probability is diminishing further with the spread of 'Assisted GPS'.

    From quora.com: The GPS receivers in phones (and probably cellular-equipped tablets) are designed to work with “aiding” by the cellular radio under normal circumstances. The idea is that the cellular base station has a GPS receiver operating continuously anyway (for timing reference), so it can be used to collect satellite ephemeris and almanac data during normal operation, which is passed to connected phones via the cellular data channel. With that data in hand, plus the location of the base station, the GPS in the phone can do a “hot start”, acquiring enough satellite signals for a location fix in a few seconds.

    Probably time to drop this call (pardon a bad pun), but again: GPS has worked for me and every other hiker I've been with on the AT 100% of the time (admittedly, I don't look at phone constantly while hiking, but I saw my long/lat every time I look at my phone's compass). Is your experience different? If so, I'd be curious to know where on the AT (or any blue blazed trail within a mile or so) did you not have GPS - and yet find that you could make a call?

  4. #104

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    It's not an issue of not getting GPS data. It's an issue of is that data shared? Was location sharing turned on? And if you share it, can the other end decode it?

    You don't need a cell tower to get GPS, since that comes from space. However, if a cell tower is in range, it's location can be used to help narrow the window of uncertainty of the satellite data. So, instead of say +/- 100 feet, you location can be resolved to just a few feet. But this is another option you can turn on or off.
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  5. #105
    Registered User SawnieRobertson's Avatar
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    We arrive at Amicolala SP excited to be about to begin our long-awaited, exciting backpack. We could have made an arrangement to be dropped off at the base of Springer, but we wanted all the traditions--signing the register and accepting our hiker number at the park office, hearing the advice and warnings that those who work within the Amicolala system believe should be understood by anyone who is beginning a thruhike. We remove our fully loaded backpack, hang it outside on the scale hook, and gasp at what it reveals. Still undaunted, we walk along the path behind the building that leads to The Arch. Once we are across its threshold, we become a thruhiker. It is a life changing moment.

    Reality changes quickly. We are on our own. And, although it has yet to fully come to our attention, even with many humans still within voice range, we are substantially on our own. Even a small mistake can be unforgiving, but we do not yet lose our sense of invincibility. We get an anxious feeling that things are not quite right. Where are those WHITE BLAZES? Make the call now. Being lost leads to panic. Panic can lead to very bad decisions. Breathe and drop that tent.

    I am so glad that he decided to make the call. A connection was made. Someone else besides him knew that he was in trouble. The next step from that moment, according to all studies I have made, would be to STAY PUT. Hopefully he made the call early enough to still had his essential gear on his back. If he has not thrown off their weight in some undergrowth,possibly thinking he could return to get it, he has all he needs with him in that pack to last him until he is found. Starting out from town or even Amicolala SP, his pack is probably loaded with enough to keep him safe, dry, fed, watered, and reasonably warm. By the time he made the call, he was probably way past the beginnings of hypothermia, but he had to be his own rescuer. It is heartbreaking to think of his disappointment at not being able to have the thruhike he had wanted.
    You never know just what you can do until you realize you absolutely have to do it.
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  6. #106
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    Just checked the compass on my phone. To my surprise the GPS location date was there. Very good information to know as I learned something today. I will pass this info on to everyone that I know as I think that most of us are quite unaware on this matter.

  7. #107
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    Default Think again think your cell phone can help you

    This article highlights the issues of locating a person via cell phone, assuming you have a strong signal. You certainly can’t count on it on the trail. https://www.washingtonpost.com/healt...call-location/

  8. #108

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    Quote Originally Posted by Decibel View Post
    Just checked the compass on my phone. To my surprise the GPS location date was there. Very good information to know as I learned something today. I will pass this info on to everyone that I know as I think that most of us are quite unaware on this matter.
    Ditto.Despite this thread being inspired by Mr Noonkester's death it is important we discuss pertinent information related to the case.I just downloaded a digital compass gps app on my phone yesterday and got familiar with it.
    Surprisingly,it not only indicates my street address and GPS Coordinates,I can also share that info by emailing it.
    I would think this app is satellite driven but I wouldn't know,anybody certain?

    I did notice that the compass requires the traditional figure 8 movements to make it work correctly so,no,I don't trust the compass on it unless the sun is out where I can see it.I don't expect to count on it on trail in a real emergency either which is why I ALWAYS have a real compass like my Silva and a paper map;preferably the moisture resistant ones.

    I would expect to be able to use it to great effect in the event I was broken down on the side of the road in an automobile.In that instance it would be priceless.But you can get the same info off Google Maps for that matter.

    Sadly,this tragedy would likely have been avoided had Mr Noonkester had a plb in his possession and used it in time.Personally,I would never go solo without one and I have been known to carry it on group hikes also.

  9. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    Ditto.Despite this thread being inspired by Mr Noonkester's death it is important we discuss pertinent information related to the case.I just downloaded a digital compass gps app on my phone yesterday and got familiar with it.
    Surprisingly,it not only indicates my street address and GPS Coordinates,I can also share that info by emailing it.
    I would think this app is satellite driven but I wouldn't know,anybody certain?

    I did notice that the compass requires the traditional figure 8 movements to make it work correctly so,no,I don't trust the compass on it unless the sun is out where I can see it.I don't expect to count on it on trail in a real emergency either which is why I ALWAYS have a real compass like my Silva and a paper map;preferably the moisture resistant ones.

    I would expect to be able to use it to great effect in the event I was broken down on the side of the road in an automobile.In that instance it would be priceless.But you can get the same info off Google Maps for that matter.

    Sadly,this tragedy would likely have been avoided had Mr Noonkester had a plb in his possession and used it in time.Personally,I would never go solo without one and I have been known to carry it on group hikes also.
    Good point on location data, BUT some apps use degrees-minutes-seconds and others use decimals. It's easy to imagine someone who is disoriented or on the verge of panic not communicating which they are using and the wrong location being established as the target. It's also easy to imagine a marginally -trained 911 operator not sensing ambiguity and writing down one instead of the other. Just something else to keep in mind.

  10. #110

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleolith54 View Post
    Good point on location data, BUT some apps use degrees-minutes-seconds and others use decimals. It's easy to imagine someone who is disoriented or on the verge of panic not communicating which they are using and the wrong location being established as the target. It's also easy to imagine a marginally -trained 911 operator not sensing ambiguity and writing down one instead of the other. Just something else to keep in mind.
    My plb requires the ability to raise the antenna and push a button.5 watts of power,registered to my name,alerts
    the military is my understanding.For roughly $300 it's the cheapest insurance policy I have ever bot.

  11. #111
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Just a note about PLB's though. We all know nothing is foolproof and if conditions are bad, well... Case in point - Kate Matrosova in the Whites in 2015. Her PLB location kept changing confusing S&R who were dealing with the extreme weather as well. Also, if it's for some reason not a GPS enabled unit (most are and why buy one that isn't), or if it doesn't have a GPS fix, the signal position data can be delayed due to satellite positioning/2nd pass time, up to 1 1/2 hours. Still, probably the most reliable SOS device available. Second would likely be satellite messengers like an InReach. Both are far better than a cell phone in remote areas.

  12. #112

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    The Kate Matrosova incident is a fascinating one as well - thanks for mentioning it for those who might not be familiar with it. In that case, the conditions were 'extreme' by any measure. I believe that one reason Mr. Noonkester's case is so haunting and vexing - besides the fact that we, the public, have so many unanswered questions at this point - is that the conditions were in no way comparable. Of course, the elements were serious enough to present life-threatening circumstances to those without the requisite knowledge, skills, and gear, but those conditions are rather common for hikers to face this time of year. And obviously many, many hikers choose to deal with them. Few would venture to put themselves in the kind of environment in which Ms. Matrosova perished.

  13. #113
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    I do carry a PLB. thus far I've never had to use it but it's well worth bringing it along whether hiking or kayaking.

  14. #114

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    This is what I purchased and it has no monthly subscription costs.And it is supposed to work when necessary.
    https://hikingguy.com/hiking-gear/acr-resqlink-review/

  15. #115
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    Maybe I missed it as I'm thinking someone must have mentioned this. There are many free GPS applications out there. I've had as many as three at one time on my phone. Currently, I have GPS Status. It's home screen has GPS latitude and longitude coordinates and a compass. Additionally, it has calibration capabilities for just about everything that requires calibration on my phone including the compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, gravity, etc.

    I can't imagine ever getting irretrievably lost on a hiking trail, but if I do, that app and Guthook would be accessed immediately. I would use Guthook and the GPS compass (I carry a handheld compass, too) to try to navigate out and the GPS app to report my latitude and longitude position if I felt that was necessary (and I could make a phone connection).

    I point this out, because I believe everyone should have a GPS app. I wouldn't rely on Google Maps especially if you can't get a data connection. Giving exact latitude and longitude coordinates to SAR/911 is about the best information you can give them. Even if the 911 operator doesn't understand what you are giving them, they can still write the information down.
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  16. #116

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    A valid reminder that electronic communications and fish finder GPS systems are not all that reliable when most needed it seems. That should be plan B, what are you using for Plan A to recognize you are in trouble and get out while you can?

  17. #117

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    The whole idea behind the Resqlink is that it uses satellites and not cell towers.Works in the gravest extreme and will call the helicopter if you need one.(better be a life threatening situation if you use it though or you might have some explaining to do....)
    Last edited by Five Tango; 02-23-2020 at 18:34.

  18. #118

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    Quote Originally Posted by treroach View Post
    The Kate Matrosova incident is a fascinating one as well - thanks for mentioning it for those who might not be familiar with it. In that case, the conditions were 'extreme' by any measure. I believe that one reason Mr. Noonkester's case is so haunting and vexing - besides the fact that we, the public, have so many unanswered questions at this point - is that the conditions were in no way comparable. Of course, the elements were serious enough to present life-threatening circumstances to those without the requisite knowledge, skills, and gear, but those conditions are rather common for hikers to face this time of year. And obviously many, many hikers choose to deal with them. Few would venture to put themselves in the kind of environment in which Ms. Matrosova perished.
    The TY Gagne book on the Kate M death is probably as close an investigation we will ever see of the incident. The claim is that Kate properly deployed the PLB antenna and then put it back in her pack where it was found when they found her body. That PLB model is designed that before it can be turned on the antenna has to be unwrapped. Given the winds and the predictions of her state of mental awareness it would have been unlikely that she could have kept it deployed. The PLB instructions are fairly specific that the antenna must be deployed for it to work properly. That it even put signals out at all for some period of time is surprising inside a pack with the antenna crumpled up. The intent of the PLB design is that the GPS signal marks a general location for the rescuers to head to and then there is radio beacon used to hone in on the PLB. The Civil Air Patrol deployed a plane with a radio direction finder to the site and they had strong signal from the beacon from quite a distance. Unfortunately the area was in the equivalent of a winter hurricane and both the CAP plane and rescue helicopter was unable to get near enough the site to give any fine directions so the rescuers had to depend on the GPS. A general note is that the title of the book is based on the speculation by one individual that Kate deployed the PLB not as a rescue attempt but as direction on to where the rescuers would find her body.

    Note with the deployment of several low earth orbit satellite systems int he next few years, I expect there is going to be an increase in the quality of signal reception for various Spot like devices. Iridium has been updating their constellation and improving their ability for signal reception. I expect if folks want or need to be tracked in near real time and are willing to pay for it they will be able to do so with greater accuracy in the future.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 02-23-2020 at 18:48.

  19. #119
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    Default Missing Thru-Hiker

    I finally looked at my NatGeo map of the area last night. Cochran falls is shown just below the Len Foote Hike Inn. Looks like maybe a half mile from that trail as the crow flies. There is a trail (not marked on map but used by locals) to visit the falls from a gravel road. I think that is what bothers me, and apparently most of us, is that he was so close to all this for days.

  20. #120
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    Ditto.Despite this thread being inspired by Mr Noonkester's death it is important we discuss pertinent information related to the case.I just downloaded a digital compass gps app on my phone yesterday and got familiar with it.
    Surprisingly,it not only indicates my street address and GPS Coordinates,I can also share that info by emailing it.
    I would think this app is satellite driven but I wouldn't know,anybody certain?

    I did notice that the compass requires the traditional figure 8 movements to make it work correctly so,no,I don't trust the compass on it unless the sun is out where I can see it.I don't expect to count on it on trail in a real emergency either which is why I ALWAYS have a real compass like my Silva and a paper map;preferably the moisture resistant ones.

    I would expect to be able to use it to great effect in the event I was broken down on the side of the road in an automobile.In that instance it would be priceless.But you can get the same info off Google Maps for that matter.

    Sadly,this tragedy would likely have been avoided had Mr Noonkester had a plb in his possession and used it in time.Personally,I would never go solo without one and I have been known to carry it on group hikes also.
    The GPS is satellite driven. The App is probably cell phone data driven. However, you can download maps onto phones using certain apps. Google maps (for driving) gives that option.
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