GIS

On the Job: GIS Guides Rescuers to Adrift Rower

15 Sep, 2005 Cadalyst

SARMAP software helps pinpoint adventurer Tiny Little's location in Atlantic Ocean


A newly improved geographic information systems (GIS) technology was used to help guide rescuers to a trans-Atlantic rower at end of his 100-day attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

SARMAP (search and rescue mapping), a digital graphic geographic information system developed by the Rhode Island company Applied Science Associates, was used by rescuers to determine and plot a course in the middle of the ocean to look for adventurer Tiny Little after his rowboat was caught in an unmapped current. Little was running out of food, and his boat was getting pulled farther and farther out into the Atlantic.

Predicting Probable Location
The SARMAP system improves the computer modeling used to calculate the speed, direction and location of floating objects, such as floating debris, or debris washed up along shorelines. Predicting the probable location of people and vessels adrift in a large body of water involves taking into account many factors and performing complex calculations. Drifting objects move constantly in response to many forces, such as the speed and direction of winds, tides, currents and wave action.

ABSAR (Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue) spokesperson Jonathan Cornelius said, "ASA gave ABSAR free access to the SARMAP computer program so they could determine where to send their rescue boat. Although rescuers had good communication with [Little], they used SARMAP to predict his drift 50 miles northeast of Antigua so that the retrieval vessel could plot an accurate course for intercept. They spotted him visually within 1.5 miles of the predicted location."

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The report generated by SARMAP for this rescue scenario shows the map location, and the small box to the right of the drift track indicates the position where Little was located.

The report generated by SARMAP for this rescue scenario shows the map location, and the small box to the right of the drift track indicates the position where Little was located.

One Day from Home
James "Tiny" Little had set out in a small rowing boat and left the Canary Islands on January 10, 2005. He had rowed across the Atlantic and was within one final day of reaching the Antigues when he encountered a current that threatened to sweep his specially equipped ocean rowing craft away from land and out into the Atlantic Ocean.

SARMAP is used by numerous government agencies to predict and identify the location of crashes and accidents at sea. ASA spokesperson Nicole Whittier said, "We can use SARMAP to speed up the identification of crash location and expedite search and rescue operations to save more lives."


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