Transforming the way the world works

Putting GPS To Work



Finding your way across the land is an ancient art and science. The stars, the compass, and good memory for landmarks helped you get from here to there. Even advice from someone along the way came into play. But, landmarks change, stars shift position, and compasses are affected by magnets and weather. And if you've ever sought directions from a local, you know it can just add to the confusion. The situation has never been perfect.

Today hikers, bikers, skiers, and drivers apply GPS to the age-old challenge of finding their way. Borge Ousland used Trimble GPS to navigate the snow and ice to ski his way to the top of the world and into the record books. And two wilderness rangers employed GPS to establish a route across the Continental Divide for horse riders and packers.

A Bible, Jimi Hendrix, and GPS

Polar history was made on April 22, 1994, when Norwegian Borge Ousland reached the North Pole after skiing 1000 kilometers from Siberia alone and unsupported. For this incredible challenge Børge carried a bible to read, some Jimi Hendrix to listen to, and a Trimble Scout GPS receiver to help find his way.

After the helicopter dropped him on the windswept Siberian Severnay Island, Børge began dragging his 275 pound sled.well. north!. All along the way, his GPS receiver kept him informed of his location and direction, as well as where the North Pole actually was.

Miles of open water and a featureless ice cap made this an unequaled navigation challenge. It's one thing to navigate land, but it's quite another when the "land" keeps shifting underfoot. And what was ice one day would be open water the next.

Seven weeks and nearly 600 miles later, and "thinking only of lasagna," his Trimble GPS receiver informed him that he was precisely on the North Pole. He had covered nearly 600 miles over snow and ice, floating across open water (his sled doubled as a boat), in temperatures that reached 35° below zero across some of the most difficult and dangerous territory on Earth.

Forest Service Trail Riders

Here's an application that combines navigation with collecting data for a mapping project. Ronald Wilcox and Gary Carver are Forest Service Wilderness Rangers who recently began to establish a new route along the Continental Divide so people using horses or pack stock can have access to this back country. Using a Trimble Explorer, they set off on horseback from South Pass City, Wyoming, spending their first six days navigating broad deserts, deep snow, flooding rivers and lousy weather.

Since they were riding through country with no existing trails, much of their time was spent hunting for routes their horses could maneuver. As you can imagine, their first attempts were fraught with meanderings and double-backs. Though they rode 45 horseback miles, the Explorer showed they had only gained five straight miles from their starting point. During their ride they plotted waypoints and determined coordinates and stored them in the Explorer for the new map.

On the fourth day they ran out of water, but the existing map showed a good water source at Lady South Spring. "We determined the coordinates on the map and set it up as a waypoint in the Explorer," said Ronald. "The next morning we rode straight to it."

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