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The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:25 pm
by gdurkee
OK. No names. But this is worth reviewing. Some guys were doing a long and ambitious trip somewhere in the Sierra (again, no names, alas...) just before that big storm. They decided they didn't have time to finish their route, so they turned around and headed back. They got to a trail junction and checked their handy GPS. Great news! It was only 4 miles back to their car if they followed the gizmo's arrow but a 15 mile slog over a pass if they went by trail. Well, with testosterone coursing through their veins, it was off for adventure and a quick trip home.

Needless to say, the route was increasingly gnarly. At no point, though, did someone say "hmmm, maybe we ought to turn back" because the GPS kept showing they were getting closer to their starting point. Sort of like Yosemite Valley being only 1 mile from the top of El Cap.. . The other good news was when one of the people tossed his pack across the stream, it went in and they were unable to recover it -- down 1/3 of the food; tent & all his clothes.

Then they got cliffed out at the Big Storm hit. So they hung out there until their signal fire was spotted (a good move on their part -- their only one) and a helicopter showed up.

Your tax dollars at work... .

g.

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:37 pm
by giantbrookie
I couldn't agree more. I do a little skit for the non-majors geology class I teach wherein I demonstrate exactly what you're talking about (ie that GPS position without ability to read a topo map will get folks in big trouble). I walk across the top of a table and toward the edge saying "my GPS says this is the way back to my car...." and I step over the edge of the table as if I'm falling off a a cliff.

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:48 pm
by rlown
I'm hoping this isn't going to be another one of those threads on technology vs. just plain stupid. Let's face it, some aren't meant to be up there. They get at least 1 point for stupid by trying to throw a pack across a stream. There's nothing wrong with a GPS if intelligently used. They would have had the same problems with a map (ie, easy to draw a straight line if you can figure out where you are.)

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:31 pm
by teejay
As Paul Harvey would say: “And now you know the rest of the story”.

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:50 pm
by quentinc
That reminds me of an article in the LA Times about a backpacking trip in Joshua Tree. It was written by the car columnist of all people, which offered promise of amusement. It didn't disappoint. He had every gizmo known to man -- GPS, latest SPOT, something I've never heard of -- and spent the first half of the article proudly describing them. Alas, after the first day he had to stop because his feet had been beaten to a bloody pulp by his apparently never-before worn hiking boots. If only he had asked his GPS about proper footware...

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:55 pm
by dave54
rlown wrote:I'm hoping this isn't going to be another one of those threads on technology vs. just plain stupid...


I have often heard people say something like "Lewis and Clark crossed an unmapped continent without a GPS...".

Anyone who read of the amount of research and preparation Lewis and Clark undertook prior to starting would realize had GPS existed they would have taken not just one but several with them. Of course, celestial navigation and trigonometry were basic skills that all military officers were expected to be highly competent.

I do use mine. But a good old fashioned map and compass are my primary navigation tools. The GPS records my track more out of curiosity than anything else.

There is one area of the Caribou Wilderness where GPS goes absolutely haywire. It will put your position somewhere in the Indian Ocean or northern Europe with a displayed accuracy of 10 meters. Walk a few hundred yards and it goes back to normal. :confused:

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 8:47 pm
by Shawn
Well I had wondered how the "no names" managed to get cliffed out and so forth. It is a curious thing how anyone but the most inexperienced could manage such a feat - let a alone with others along?

Reminds me, in a way, about when my wife bought me a GPS many years back for a birthday gift. I switched the thing on and wandered out the front door and down the street. When I returned about 5 minutes later she commented (with great sarcasm) "hey that GPS must work great cuz' you found your way back". :D

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 5:31 am
by markskor
Old IT axiom my wife often uses:
A fool with a tool is still a fool.

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 2:00 pm
by rlown
so, do we all at least agree that these guys were unprepared, regardless of technology? The throw your pack into a stream kinda locked it for me.

Russ

G, i want names or a pointer to the rescue report.

Re: The GPS is not the territory

PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:09 am
by gdurkee
I have often heard people say something like "Lewis and Clark crossed an unmapped continent without a GPS...".

Anyone who read of the amount of research and preparation Lewis and Clark undertook prior to starting would realize had GPS existed they would have taken not just one but several with them. Of course, celestial navigation and trigonometry were basic skills that all military officers were expected to be highly competent.


In a sense, they were using a GPS in the same way these guys were -- just following an arrow west with no real idea of the terrain ahead. They kept hoping to find that magic river they could paddle down to the Pacific. It was there, just much farther than they thought (and, surprise! The Rocky Mountains were in the way...).

Don't know when any reports on this incident will be done. None of this stuff is ever posted or linked. It has to be requested directly from the agency as a FOIA request. It seemed an interesting safety observation to bring that aspect up here though... .

g.