Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Kittens, bikers, and… a blind guy

Kittens – guaranteed to get readers.

Bikers – guaranteed to get haters.

Blind guy – well, he’s probably why I mentioned this.

A few weeks ago, I was about to cross one of the busier side streets in Shettleston, and not paying much attention to the people (buildings yes, people no).

I spotted a biker pulling up, and he was probably the kind of older guy that most people would not ‘approve’ of.

Big, old, noisy, and heavily chromed bike – also noisy (oh, I said that).

The rider (not a youngster) was similarly in tattered denims. looked mean, was wearing sunglasses – and most folk would probably class as ‘dangerous’, or some such silliness based only on appearance and prejudice.

I was watching him as he’d pulled up and left his bike quickly, a little untidily, and perhaps even reinforcing the ‘bad boy’ stereotype.

Nope!

He’d stopped to help an elderly blind gent with a white stick, who I then noticed was stuck on a small traffic island at this particular junction, and seemed unable to get off in the midst of the traffic. (If you’re about to ask, no, I hadn’t reached it/him at that point, and was still about 10 m away).

Biker guy spoke to him, took his arm, and guided him to the pavement – then got back on his bike and disappeared.

I was reminded of this when I saw the video below.

You’ll have to watch it full-screen to see the kitten when it first appears. The fuzzy footage makes it hard to see where it comes from, but you can see it wander about, and have a number of narrow escapes before the biker collects it.

This is almost like a video from last year, from Russia, where someone actually caught the moment a kitten was thrown from a moving car while it was crossing a busy junction. The intention was clearly to kill it, and painfully. How it was not killed almost immediately is almost unbelievable, but it was petrified, and didn’t move much. I’m sure this video will still be around, but I’m not going to go find it again.

In that case, a trucker (aren’t they supposed to be ‘bad guys’ too?) pulled up immediately, blocking the traffic, and jumped down to rescue the kitten.

More guts than the people who threw it onto the junction.

Anyway, this is Skids:

A couple of updates show he seems none the worse for his adventure on the road:

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Drama as helicopter lifts casualty from Wallace Monument

I’m always a sucker for a good helicopter story, so today’s incident at Stirling’s Wallace Monument can’t pass without mention.

Oddly, the Wallace Monument is one of those places I’ve passed hundreds of times, yet never stopped to visit – even when passing the entrance road at the bottom of the hill.

In this case, it’s reported that a teenager was four steps from the top, 67 m up and at the end of 246 steps, when a dislocated knee ended the climb, and made the return trip by the same route… unlikely.

An RAF Sea King rescue helicopter based at Lossiemouth was called in to winch the victim off the 1869 tower, and to hospital.

Helicopter rescue on Wallace Monument after person dislocates knee | Stirling & Central | News

Teenager airlifted from Wallace Monument near Stirling – BBC News

The BBC News article carried this pic credited to Les Calderwood:

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal locator beacons become legal for use on land

Rescue helicopterIt was interesting to see a raft of news items report that a device I was given a ‘poke in the eye’ for identifying as NOT being the device the BBC identified as the hero of a rescue story back in 2008 – We know where you are  – has now (four years later) become legal for use in in the UK since January 12, 2012.

Previously, personal locator beacons (PLBs) had been restricted for use at sea and by aircraft crews.

Now, climbers and hillwalkers may use them legally.

The police across the UK are the co-ordinating authority for all land-based search and rescue incidents. Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cowie is the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland lead on Search and Rescue, whilst Deputy Chief Constable Ian Shannon is the lead in England and Wales.

In a joint statement, they said:

‘This legislative change will allow members of the public to use handheld PLB devices on land anywhere in the UK which when activated, will send a Distress Alert message that will be picked up by satellite and relayed via the UK Mission Control Centre (UKMCC) direct to the authorities.’

‘The UKMCC, co-located with the Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC), currently at RAF Kinloss, will receive, process and verify co-ordinates for activations before informing the relevant Police Force via the Force Operations Centre.’

‘The Police Service has been at the forefront throughout 2010-11, in planning these changes and colleagues in Police Forces across the UK are fully aware of the changes in legislation. We have worked with the Ministry of Defence, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and OFCOM to get the necessary protocols in place to deal effectively with a PLB activation.’

‘Mountain and Lowland Search and Rescue Teams are busy all year round’ they added, ‘and if we can take advantage of today’s technology to help manage and minimise the risk to rescuers and help speed up the whole rescue process, in an emergency, there is no doubt we can save lives that might otherwise be lost. It will also help reduce the burden on volunteer rescue teams and searchers across the UK. Satellite coverage is much wider than mobile coverage and we have to take advantage of that.’

If you are considering purchasing one of these devices please remember the following:

  • The use of a PLB should be as a last resort for use when ALL other means of self-rescue have been exhausted and where the situation is deemed to be grave and imminent, and the loss of life, limb or eyesight will occur without assistance.

See more here:

Personal Locator Beacons – change in the law – North East Wales Search And Rescue

BBC News – Personal locator beacons cleared for use on land

Land approved emergency beacons ‘could save lives’ | Scotland | STV News

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Skye medical device designer and manufacturer saved

Medical laboratory testTo my personal shame, I have to confess that I had never even hear of Gaeltec Ltd, a small company which has been designing and making medical pressure measurement equipment since 1971. My only excuse is that I never touched the sales side of our business, and our sales director was more interested in exotic locations, and viewed small clients as a nuisance (yes, I consider him to be some sort of cretin, but had little power over him as we held similar authority).

The business is reported to have been rescued by another company involved in the same area of design and manufacture, London based Digitimer Limited, which manufactures clinical and biomedical research instrumentation, and has bought the Scottish business for an undisclosed sum.

I was a little surprised to read that the business was forced into administration in March, having failed to pay a tax bill. All I can say is ‘Been there, got the t-shirt’, and our taxman didn’t care about one missed bill (or a lot more to be honest), and was more interested in keeping the business and its employees afloat, provided we could show a viable business and maintain a payment plan. He certainly wanted his money, ‘or else’, but he was also answerable to his Government masters, and had no interest in folding the business for matter of some late payments. In other words, I think there must have been another story.

Gaeltec will become Gaeltec Devices in the deal, and Digitimer hopes to re-employ most of the 12 staff who work at the Dunvegan facility on the Isle of Skye.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kittens rescued just before car is scrapped

Rescued kittens pic from BBC web site

Rescued kittens - pic from BBC web site

Taking their collective life count from 36 to 32 as they barely made their first month, the BBC carried the story of staff at the Noble Auto Savage Yard in Kirkcaldy who lived up to their name when they rescued four kittens from the boot of a car which was about to be scrapped. The four were found during a routine search.

The car had  originated in Chester, some 300 miles away, and it seems that’s this is also where the kittens probably got into the boot. Despite the trip on a car transporter, an inspector for the Scottish SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) said the kittens were fit and healthy, and that Sasha, Suki, Glen and Cole were really friendly, and would be looking for new homes in about a month, and would stay at the society’s Angus, Fife and Tayside animal rescue and rehoming centre until then.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crashed wartime bomber saves climber

Avro LancasterThere was a remarkable story spotted in the news, relating the circumstance around the survival of a climber caught in an avalanche and swept down a mountainside in Fuselage Gully on Beinn Eighe, Torridon, last December (2009).

Although badly injured in the incident, the climber was saved when he came to a stop on hitting the remains of a propeller which had been lodged in ground after a Lancaster bomber crashed there a few years after the end of World War II.

The aircraft had left Kinloss and been on a training flight on March 14, 1951, when the crash took place on Triple Buttress on Beinn Eighe. All eight crew members on board lost their lives. Difficulties in recovering the bodies over several months would lead to the formation of RAF Mountain Rescue.

Most of the wrecked Lancaster is understood to have been destroyed in a later controlled explosion, but some sections of wing and its Rolls Royce Merlin engines remain.

A small brass plaque on part of the wreckage serves to remember the accident and those on board.

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Civilian, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

Ofcom appeal over VHF radio licence costs for rescuers

Port askaig lifeboat and station © Copyright Gordon Hatton

Port askaig lifeboat and station © Gordon Hatton

I’m no stranger to the costs of radio licenses, having coughed up as a radio amateur, CB user, and even in business for site use by employees and for van drivers, but I had no idea of the numbers involved for organisations such as the RNLI and mountain rescue teams. The Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland and RNLI have have both expressed concerns about licence costs.

There a big shake-up in the use of the available radio spectrum, which really is a finite resource and coming under increasing pressure as more wireless equipment and networking systems are dreamt up and installed, and systems get greedier as they tend to carry more information, which means each one wants to consume more of that space for itself. Ofcom (the regulator) is consulting on planned changes to the radio broadcasting spectrum which could be introduced from next April, and the changes mean proposed cost rises for the use of VHF radio frequencies. In its consultation document, the regulator said a review was needed to bring about a more efficient use of radio communications which it described as a “finite resource”.

Ofcom has suggested charities could be offered a 50% discount.

Even so, with limited resources and dependent on charity and public supports, the rescue services say this will strain their resources. The Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland has written to Ofcom regrding the costs, and each team member has also been asked to write letters.

In terms of costs, the RNLI has revealed that it currently £38,000 per annum after the VHF licence fee has been discounted by 50%. Under the new proposals, they say this would rise to £260,00, or £130,00 if Ofcom’s suggestion of a 50% discount was agreed.

The use of radio use on all vessels is free of charge, however, the costs described still apply onshore and include lifeboat stations and pagers used by volunteers.

Ofcm’s consultation is due to finish on October 30.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New alert system saves fisherman

mob guardian dongleWe picked up the story of a tourist being saved when using a personal position indicator and alarm system to alert rescuers to his distress.

In a similar sort of situation, a fisherman and his crew owe their lives to a new RNLI designed system which automatically alerts rescuers when its owner enters the water. The device is currently either fitted, or due to be fitted to some eighty Scottish fishing boats, and can be used to kill the vessel’s engine if a lone fisherman falls overboard.

The MOB Guardian unit used satellite technology to give rescuers and up-to-date position of the vessel in distress – and I’m not going past that quote of how the system is reported to work this time, right or wrong, the Beeb’s account is all you get unless you want to study it in depth: the MOB Guardian. Well, keeping away from the satellite side of things, you wear the dongle shown above and, if you fall in the water, the radio link it maintains with the onboard base unit is broken, and the alarm is sent to the rescue services.

Suffice to say that the RNLI found the crew fifty minutes after the device activated, treading water as their boat had gone so quickly they were unable to deploy the life raft.

Yours for as little as £315 + VAT

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Maritime | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vacuum packed kitten rescued from drain

curious catWhen you watch some cats out on patrol, it’s clear the almighty knew a thing or two when they were given their legendary 9 lives. However, they’ve at least managed to make it out of the nest before they start the countdown.

Firefighters in Dunbar found themselves confronted with a lost kitten on Monday morning (June 9), after its mother decided to have her kittens under the kitchen sink, and one decided to crawl off down the drain and became trapped. In keeping with cat tradition, the 6 hour old made sure it was located just out of easy reach, even after some of the kitchen cupboard had been sawn away.

Rescuers used their equipment to confirm the location of the trapped youngster, and extracted the kitten using a vacuum cleaner. The flexible hose was able to reach where big arms and hands couldn’t, and a sock placed over the end of the hose prevented injury.

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

UAV costs tumble

uav launchI shouldn’t really say that I find the ongoing advances and cost-reductions that are bringing formerly astronomically priced priced project into the reach of just about anyone with a few pounds to spare depressing – but it is!

Some years ago I/we ran some amateur TV stations. In order to throw TV pictures a mere handful of miles around the neighbourhood we needed steerable beam antennas on our roofs (like ordinary TV aerials, only 4 metres long and rotatable), a collection of UHF transmitters and receivers, and TV cameras which were black & white if you were poor, or colour if you were well-off or know where to pick up surplus colour kit. A large wallet helped, or lots of scrounging was needed to cobble something together without landing in the poor house. There was also the tiny downside that the only people who saw your pictures were like minded amateurs that knew where you were, and could point their beams in your direction.

The thought of doing this mobile was a nightmare, both technically and cost-wise. Miniature cameras and transmitters cost an arm and a leg, even if self-built, and were less than reliable. Transmission and reception were problematic, and picture quality left more than a little to be desired at best. Going airborne multiplied the problems, with weight, vibration, battery power all unacceptably high, and the small problem of having to be able to fly a model aircraft (aeroplane: expensive; helicopter: ultra-expensive), which had to be engine-powered to cope. Electric could be used, but only if flights of minutes were acceptable.

Now, provided you have a PC, for a few pound, a cheap webcam means you can “broadcast” worldwide. And going mobile, or airborne in a model has become trivial, with quality images being easily achieved since we are no longer having to transmit and receive wideband video signals, but digital data, with all the error correction and standardisation that brings.

Things have advanced to the stage that the emergency services can now consider using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Loaded with the appropriate software, these don’t even need a skilled pilot to fly them. Using GPS to tell them where they are, a series of waypoint can be upoaded to give them a route to follow, and the operator can just sit and watch the real-time video being sent back from the UAV, with tho option of slipping an infra-red camera inside instead of a standard video camera. In the case of the system we saw today, being tested in Bridge of Orchy, a sole operator could set up the route, hand launch the programmed UAV to search the area, and even take over control manually if anything interesting was seen, then bring the unit back for belly landing on the grass. Even a crash landing is unlikely to be disastrous, as the UAV is largely a lump of lightweight plastic, unlike “proper” radio controlled models which are usually heavy and complex, and turn into scrap if they land too heavily, let alone crash

While not pretending these UAVs are cheap, they are when considered against the capital cost of a helicopter, which is up to £4 million or so, has huge running and maintenance cost, and needs a crew.

One of the most impressive facts is their endurance. According to the report, the UAV shown will stay aloft for 90 minutes, after which the battery pack simply needs to be replaced and it’s off again. Back in the dark old days of electric powered flight, before we had the latest batteries, flights of 10 minutes were the norm, and 20 minutes was something of a dream.

Scotland’s hills, mountains, and wide open spaces catch many visitors out every year, and people die as a result. While it would be nice to have a fleet of helicopters flying around to look after them, even though there are more now, the cost means there will never be a lot. Equipping the rescue services with this sort of technology, which could be deployed within minutes of arriving at the scene of an incident could well be a life saver, rather than having to wait for hours to get enough people to the area, or wait for a helicopter to be prioritised.

I knew I should have been doing something more useful with all that spare gear!

June 9, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment

We know where you are

dishThe BBC usually manages to make a reasonably good effort when reporting, and descending to level where the word drivel is brought forth is generally a fairly rare occurrence, but they did manage to do it when reporting the events surrounding the rescue from Glen Etive, near Fort William, of a Danish tourist in his 60s, after he suffered acute abdominal pain.

The Beeb tells us that “A distress signal sent by a Danish tourist from a Scottish glen was picked up in Texas”, and that ” The man, who felt unwell, sent a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) text, which was picked up 4,000 miles away.”

Forgive me for being an engineering pedant, but both statements triggered the drivel alarm, and I had to go check the facts. Unfortunately, the Beeb omitted to give any details of the device involved, other than to describe it as “an emergency beacon the size of a TV remote control”, suggesting it was a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon. What they did get correct, hopefully, was the system used, known as GEOS which allows subscribers with suitable mobile phones, or satellite personal trackers, to subscribe to an emergency monitoring system. Using either the cellphone network (fine for populated areas), or a constellation of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites for the personal trackers (which means they still work in places blessed with freedom from cellphone coverage), when an emergency alert button is pressed on them, these device send a message to the GEOS control centre using either the cellphone network, or through a data link to the LEO satellites. LEO satellites can be orbiting at a height of anywhere from 100-1,240 miles, but given we are considering small, hand held devices, the lower end seems more likely. Once triggered the device keeps sending, since the orbiting satellites can take up to 20 minutes to reach a suitable reception point.

So, that’s the first drivel alarm cancelled. Nothing was “picked up 4,000 miles away”. Our unfortunate visitor triggered a signal that either had to travel no further then the nearest cellphone mast, or to an overhead satellite, and it was managed 4,000 miles away.

I won’t dwell on the “sent a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) text” howler for too long, sufficient to say that the GPS system (currently) is owned and operatedby the United States Department of Defense, and (as far as civilians are concerned) only transmits positional data for reception by GPS or SatNav receivers. The DoD is most definitely not in the business of passing civilian text messages, and civilian GPS equipment does not, and never has, transmitted anything back to the system. I imagine anyone that tried would be considered to be engaged in GPS-spoofing, and probably find a large party of US Marines or Navy SEALs on their doorstep if they did.

Assuming it was a PLB, then what would have been sent was the data transmission mentioned above. Although they can be mated with GPS receivers to provide positional data to identify the location of the the person in distress, the system used with PLBs is able to operate in complete independence of GPS. Using sophisticated analysis of the communications signal linking the PLB to the LEO satellites, examination of the signal’s Doppler Shift allows the tracking station to identify the ground location by triangulation. At about 5 km this may not match the smaller error of around 5 m associated with GPS based system, but is still impressive given the method – apparently originally developed by the Russians.

The tourist was removed to Fort William, where he received hospital treatment.

Main thing is… everything worked.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments

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