Saturday, 30 November 2013

Changing view

You go on holiday, come home and someone has taken the beach huts away!

Shore Road is looking different and will do for a whilst stabilisation work and new huts are built.

This area has in the past been important to the team during carnival week, being the forward operating tea stop.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Chocolate Fridge

It would appear that following one of my daily Coastguard Station 'security/how much chocolate is left in the fridge inspections' ...that the team have AGAIN managed to munch their way through a fridge load of  chocolate. 

Only Bounty Bars left....

I've told them before that if they keep eating chocolate at this rate they won't fit through the door!

...and that's the cue for a fat ginger cat to try and squeeze through a door.

Awww soooo cute.

Disclaimer: Any similarity between the cat and a team member is purely coincidental.

Monday, 25 November 2013

"Doing a Roger"

Roger's first descent at Anvil Point , it was moments later that he developed the new skill of viewing the cliff from a different angle.

Thanks to the high standard of the equipment and training methods Roger was soon back on his feet and continued down to the lower ledge.  Safety is so important in any of our exercises and the learning and checks continue from the moment we leave the station till we get back.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

View from the office

This morning some of the team had an early start at a local cafe.....before official training starting at 8.30.

We headed up to Anvil Point with the aim to get all technicians ( that's the person who goes over the cliff) down onto the lower ledges. (not all at the same time)

Brian was up first and performed a near perfect demonstration followed by Steve. The Station Officer was up next and just after this photo was taken got rather wet when a large wave dumped on top of him (despite the team thinking he had an accident).

Roger and Nick were next up for their 1st Anvil Point run and did ever so well despite at one stage Roger performing an interesting descent which the team have now called 'doing a Rog'. Sadly, we cannot say what this manouevre involved, but it has to be said it was impressive. No, really it was. Its such a pity that we cannot let you, our dear readers, know what variation and artistic element Roger brought to the task but thats the way it has to be.

Instead, you might like to listen to some music and think about what may have happened.

Anyway, both Rog and Nick score a good '7' from the cliff edge safety officers.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Different Types of Cliffs

As many will know from their geography field trips to Swanage we have a varied geology. To the north we have chalk, then some limestone, then some um ..other limestone.

"So what's this got to do with Coastguarding?"

Well have a look at these three cliffs:-

Durlston Bay

Old Harry

Anvil Point

All very different with different challenges and dangers; and as a team we train on all three so we know what to expect.

The first Durlston Bay is less steep but very slippy with numerous holes towards the top. Easy to get stakes in and get the cliffman over but easy to trip on the way down and turn ankles etc. Lots of undercuts and sharp ledge. Pretty flowers though in spring.

Old Harry, vertical and undercut, again easy to get the stakes in on top, but loose gravel at the top makes the first 5m difficult. On a dry day it's dust in your eyes and the cliff top safety officers. Below 5m and the keen eyed viewer will see big 'square chunks' of rock which are easily dislodged. You try and kick off the loose ones and carry on. Issues here are rocks following you down or the ropes twisting in the wind and catching rocks, again they like to follow you down. Anything larger than a tennis ball can do serious damage to the cliffman or casualty below. You spend most of the time looking up and dodging. On the bottom move away from the cliff face quick. Out of interest a stonemason has cut a face in the rock at the bottom.

Anvil Point, big cliffs, vertical. It's hard rock not very forgiving on our kermantle ropes which can become desheathed (outer lining cut) even with loads of line protection. Really difficult to get stakes in, but the rock face is nice and stable. Very slippy on the bottom. It's a nightmare bringing casulties over the top without them getting cut and bruised, we use the 'quadpod' (a four legged crane thing) here a lot. If we are going over here its normally a climber and we would be playing for keeps so to speak. It's an exposed site to the weather so othen cold, wet and windy. Not my favourite site.

So you don't need a geology degree to join the Coastguard, just an understanding that each type of rock brings up different challenges.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Flares not Fireworks

These photos were kindly sent to us of a recent exercise at St Albans Head when some our new team members had a practise firing some illuminates.

We normally use them on night time searches to light up a large area.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Incident at Tilly Whim, Swanage

The last four days have been some of the most difficult the team have faced for many years.

When I say "team" that is just not the immediate members of the Swanage and St Albans Coastguard teams. This incident has defined just how big that team is during an incident of this magnitude.

Over the 4 days we believe over 500 people have been involved in this continued incident - Coastguard Rescue Officers, Coastguard Operations Room and support staff, RNLI Swanage crews and support staff, Coastguard Helicopter crew and CHC support staff, Dorset Police Officers ,Police Staff, National Police Air Service and Dorset County Council Country Park Rangers.

But there are some more very important people we should mention - our families and friends who have shared the pain and upset the weekend brought. We should also mention the kind support from the community, the cafe who provided refreshments and the shop who refused payment for some equipment we needed.

On behalf of the Swanage Coastguard Team we would like to thank everyone who has been involved or supported us all.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire Night

An example of what happens if you do!

By way of an actual example; last year a single red flare was reportedly seen by a person standing on Poole Quay who reported the position over the southern side of Poole Harbour. The positioning suggested it was on land - however we treat each sighting as an emergency until we can confirm otherwise. The time was 02:00am isn.

To verify this position HM Coastguard Ops Room Portland tasked Poole Coastguard to talk to the first informant, and Swanage Coastguard to go to the approximate position of the reported flare.

Needles Coastguard Team and the Yarmouth Lifeboat on the Isle of Wight were turned out to help triangulate the flare position.

Swanage Team them put up a white star para illuminate flare and the position was confirmed by Yarmouth RNLI and Needles CG as Goathorn Pier. The Pier was checked and nothing found. All teams were stood down at around  04:00.

Given the resources involved you can clearly understand why the chap in Salcombe who deliberate let off a flare for no reason was fined over £750 with costs of £3000 awarded against him.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Incident at Tilly Whim Caves

Yesterday afternoon at approximately 15:20 both the the Swanage and St Albans HMCoastguard Cliff teams were tasked to a report of a person who had become stuck in a sea cave under Tilly Whim Caves. Given the nature of the tasking both the Swanage Lifeboats and Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 106 who were already at the scene were unable to prosecute a rescue. 

On arrival the cliff teams were met by the helicopter winch-man who explained the tasking. Entry to the cave was either underwater, or though a narrow blowhole at the top of the cave.

A full cliff rescue set up was put in place and risk assessments conducted as to the severity of the rescue operation and whether a rescue was viable through the blow hole. The rescue was considered to be at the very edge of our technical capability.

With the light failing and high tide approaching a final risk assessment was undertaken by the officer in charge and decision made to deploy. The St Albans' Cliff Technician showed exceptional courage and entered the cave through the blow hole. 

On entering the cave it became apparent that the casualty had sadly succumbed. The difficult decision was taken that the recovery of the body at that point was too dangerous to undertake. The teams then stood down.

Naturally at this time the team's thoughts are with the person's family and friends.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Coastguard Medal Presentation

Photo courtesy of The New Milton Advertiser

This week I was invited to a medal presentation for one of the Southbourne Coastguard team.

In the Coastguard Service having completed 20 years service you are present with a medal for long service in line with the services.

As can be seen several important guests were invited (the gold braid is a clue) .

The Chief Coastguard Mr Peter Dymond OBE , Head of Coastal Resources Richard Martin OBE, Rescue Coordination Centre Manager Portland Mark Rodaway OBE along with 3 sector managers.......lots of important people.