Are the universal calls of distress being ignored or forgotten?  A recent tragedy in Golden BC where an SOS sign traced in the snow was not followed up on and my own ignored distress call that I made after getting lost for an evening 17 years ago, made me consider the above question.

Along the KVR near Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park  at the South end of Chute Lake, you will find a forest recreation site and campground.

The first time I stumbled into this campground was not with the anticipation of a hot chocolate and marshmallows. No, my foray into the community of happy campers was with a sad dissapointment. Earlier that fall afternoon of 1993, I had been hunting along the ridges one or two km SW of Chute Lake.  As the light began to fade I headed back to meet my buddy at his Jeep, or so I thought. The ridge I made my decent on looked similiar to the ridge that I came up on but as dusk turned to dark, I knew I was lost! I decided to travel West and down a steep side hill and subsequently find the KVR and the way home. Knowing the KVR was near and getting to the KVR were two different things!

The steep terrain, rock outcroppings and black forest surrounding made for a slow cautious hike. In the hope that my buddy would be able to recognize my situation and to alert anyone else that may be near, I fired three quick shots from my 30-06 into the night sky.

 muzzle flare

After moving down the hillside farther I let another round of 3 shots fly like lightning from my gun barrel,  skirted a few more rock outcroppings and was surprised to find that Chute Lake was just below me.   As I moved along the shore of Chute Lake and closer to the campsite at the South end of the lake, I could see several groups of campers – but to my surprise, none of which made any recognition of my situation or movement to see what I was up to. I mean, if you were camped in a skinny little valley with the thunder of a 30-06 rolling accross your campsite, wouldn’t you either confront the individual as he approached your camp…or run and get the heck outta the way!It was just as well, I didn’t have to explain my stupidity and at about the same time I got to the campsite, I could hear the distinct roar of my buddies jeep approaching.  I caght up with my buddy on the KVR and arrived home safe and sound.  Why did not one of the several camping groups respond to my call of distress?

I have never really considered the lack of response to my universal call of distress untill last week when tragedy struck near Golden BC where a SOS found in the snow was seen but really… ignored for reasons that I cannot explain.

Fellow outdoors men and women, are you going to take it upon yourself to ensure that a call of distress in the wilderness is answered if you are the one to spot it or hear it, or will you make a quick cell phone call and HOPE someone else deals with the situation?  I (and the next person who sends out a universal call of distress) hope that you will not only call  911 but follow up as well and move mountains to ensure that action was taken to resolve the concern.           

   Here are examples of how to make universal distress calls,   

  1. Any series of three signals, three whistle blasts or three gunshots
  2. Three signal fires, making sure to keep them under control. Place them in triangular form (a known signal for help) and space them 50 feet apart so that a plane can distinguish the pattern from overhead.  Use green and wet wood to send up ample smoke during daylight; use dry material at night to make a strong, roaring blaze
  3. Spread out three sets of brightly colored equipment, a tent cloth, a tarp and a space blanket in an open space to signal your distress.  Again, put them in triangular form.
  4. Use brightly colored gear or dark brush or rocks to create three piles, or lay out an ‘SOS’ or a big ‘X’ on an open snowfield to signal aircraft rescuers in wintry conditions.
  5. On a sunny day, use a mirror to flash a sunlight signal over long distances if you see a plane or people in the distance.Finally, hope that the one who hears or views your destress call, acts upon it and follows up to ensure someone else has thoroughly investigated.