Dear Aunty Ice Axe

I see that the Club has got some of those new locator beacons. I have my doubts about whether these new-fangled gizmos are worth taking on trips - what do you think of them?


Dear T-L

Once upon a time Aunty would have totally agreed with you a massive couple of hundred grams of extra weight, a proper kiwi tramper does not get lost or injured anyway, absolute reliance on satellites clearly all under the control of the CIA or SMERSH, and most calamitous of all to contemplate - a whole Aunt-life and the happiness of multiple nephews and nieces depending on a couple of AA batteries? No thank you.

There is of course the suspicion that the multiple nephews and nieces would probably be quite adequately consoled in their Aunt-deprived grief, should Aunty become terminally lost, by the prospect of immediately inheriting her collection of tramping paraphernalia including some unique examples of early hip-flasks and an unrivalled assemblage of used teabags. In addition, Aunty is now older and wiser, the skies are now so crowded with satellites from miscellaneous countries that death-by-fallout-from-satellite-collision is now an accepted insurable risk, and a couple of AA batteries can apparently now keep a small bunny toy hopping frantically for even longer than it takes the Hororata Pub to serve a cup of tea (several years and counting). A modern Aunt must move with the times and indeed an ambitious Aunt should aim to keep ahead riding like a surfer in the curl of the breaking wave of wireless mice, talking fridges, microchipped dogs, e-loopaper . . . (Actually, Aunty's physique has proved ill-adapted for surfing: even after the custom-made wet suit had been specially engineered there were several traumatic episodes of what is - in surfer jargon - apparently known as 'the washing cycle', accompanied by the involuntary ingestion of a large amount of ocean-bottom sand, and Aunty conceded defeat.)

The buoyancy issue notwithstanding however, over the last few years Aunty has made a determined attempt to redress her natural inclination to disregard any invention made after the end of the 19th century. Txt-an-Rnt, linking the socially-dazed-and-confused, romantically-refused, personally-diffused, etc, to live agony-help 24/7 from a call centre in Croatia has been an outstanding success. The latest innovation is from - your choice of SpellCast (like a podcast but with added herbs and incantations) to download onto your poisonApple iSpell and invoke whenever and wherever you want.

The personal locator beacon has been top of the list of Aunty's technology-reassessments. Clearly the potential for such a device in an age when so many people talk about the need to 'find' themselves must be enormous. Aunty has been particularly struck by the added features of the new frequency digital beacons. Personal identification of each unit already provides useful extra information to the search authorities, but surely this can be extended to trigger other events as well  for instance, your 'out of office' email autoreply and cell phone message could automatically be updated to 'I am sorry that I am unable to respond at present because I am totally lost, possibly injured, in some remote location. Please check TV and newspaper reports for further information'

So Aunty is now a convert to the cause and takes a beacon everywhere (particularly when venturing into the larger shopping malls). As a frequent solo-tramper, as far as Aunty is concerned it's just common sense: it weighs less than the scroggin-with-lots-of-extra-chocolate, and after the Camel Incident Aunty recognises that inconvenient events can happen to even the most experienced adventurer. For a group, well, it could save someone several days tramp out to raise the alarm and 'very importantly' increase chances of Aunty getting home in time for Coronation Street (memo to self: ask Garmin to see if activated beacon can automatically reprogram video recorder . . .)

Yours, in techno-heaven,

Aunty Ice Axe.