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Sailors rescued via satcom message

Jan 1, 2003

Two Norwegian sailors say they owe their swift rescue off the Aus-tralian coast to their Magellan GSC 100, an Orbcomm satcom messaging transceiver with a built-in GPS. Arne and Christian Froensdal were 300 miles from Rockhampton, Queensland, aboard their 39-foot catamaran in August when their mast came tumbling down without warning. It then began pounding a hole in one of the hulls.

Since their VHF antenna came down with the mast and the pair had no EPIRB aboard, they sent a distress message via their GSC 100. Their distress call was received by the Orbcomm satellite network and sent to Orbcomm's customer service: "MAYDAY. Mast lost. Need immediate assistance. Please notify Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Canberra, Australia." The message also contained the catamaran's latitude and longitude.

This is the first such case of an Orbcomm customer using the system to relay distress. "The system is not necessarily intended for emergencies, but it worked well for that purpose in this case," said Orbcomm spokesperson Wende Cover at the company's headquarters in Virginia. The Froensdal brothers had been using their Orbcomm/Magellan for routine text communication with their families ashore in Norway prior to the emergency. Once they contacted Orbcomm customer service, they waited 15 hours before being spotted by a French aircraft and were rescued by a fishing vessel.