The adventurer Erden Eruc is the founder and President of the non-profit organisation Around-n-Over. He has already overcome many challenges: he has run several marathons, cycled thousands of kilometres in harsh winters (including Seattle (Washington)-Takkeetna (Alaska)), climbed the highest summits on our planet and climbed the most perilous glaciers, etc. In 2003, he climbed the summit of Denali, the highest point in North America, a challenge that he set himself as part of the “Six Summits Projects”. Two of his most impressive feats include crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific in a rowing boat.
In a few words, what does the Argos beacon represent for you?
For me, the Argos beacon represents safety. Indeed, it makes it possible for me to let everyone know where I am in a reliable manner. For example, I found it very reassuring when I was crossing oceans to see the red light on the beacon flashing each time it transmitted my position. With each flash, I knew that someone was permanently aware of my position. I knew that this meant that I wasn’t actually completely alone, given that CLS were monitoring my route 24 hours a day. Thanks to this system, many people were following my progress and my family could assess the distance travelled on a daily basis and check that everything was going OK for me.
When was the last time that the Argos assistance request was of use to you?
It was as I crossed the Pacific in 2007-2008, when I was attempting to reach Papua-New Guinea from California, this was the last time I was equipped with an Argos beacon. The beacon worked brilliantly well during the length of the 312 days of my journey, each beacon transmits for around 105 days before the batteries wear out.
Luckily, I have never needed to trigger the assistance request, but an anecdote related to a transmission problem deserves a mention. Argos beacon were equipped with an “assistance” switch, to be actuated in the event of a problem, something I have never needed to do. On 15 January 2008, CLS received an erroneous signal (false alarm) from my Argos beacon. This happens very rarely, when the satellite disappears over the horizon. The CLS team treated this alert in the most rigorous manner, as if it were an emergency, and alerted the coast guards in Hawaii, the Ocean Rowing company and my wife. The signal was a one-off, it was not a persistent signal as it would have been had I triggered the switch myself, so everyone was worried and waited for some sign of life from me. During this time, my wife tried to join me on my satellite telephone, and sent me emails and SMSs. It was only when I happened to see an SMS that I realised that there had been a false alarm and I was able to inform everyone that I was OK.
The positive side of this incident is that I was able to witness how quickly CLS could react if one day I were truly to find myself in a real emergency situation. I must say that knowing this is a comfort and an additional safety feature. I know now that someone will come to my aid if one day I really do need help. My family can sleep soundly when I start a new expedition!
Note from CLS
Later I received the following note from CLS Toulouse. It should be remembered that the Argos system has several applications, particularly tracking, including monitoring fishing boast and monitoring wild animals and individuals like me on the ground and at sea.
Note from CLS:
“We would like to explain what happened with regards to what you may have heard about satellites that orbit low on the horizon. Now and again, the last message received by the satellite before it disappears over the horizon may enter into conflict with a radio message being transmitted on a similar, or even identical, frequency. The same frequency as another Argos beacon, for example. In these cases, even if we are always almost certain that the message is erroneous, our policy is to notify a possible distress message. We think that it is preferable to provide too much information when human safety is at stake rather than to ignore real emergency calls.”