Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lonely car - missing kayaker?

Dutch car with roof-rack parked in a Czech Village - where is the Dutch kayaker?

This morning I was contacted about a search-action concerning a good friend of mine. Locals have noticed a Dutch car parked on in a little village in the middle of nowhere (somewhere in northern Scandinavia) for more than two weeks and alarmed the police. The Norwegian authorities have identified my friend as the owner of the car by the licence plate. My friend and his partner make a multiple week (completely self supporting) hike in the most remote and inhabited parts of Scandinavia every summer. I know they left for Norway in the middle of July, but I am not familiar with their exact plans. The only thing we could do is give the police the cell-phone number of our friends, and hope the alarm is false!

More kayak-related was a nasty experience another friend of mine had last May. We made an appointment for the the NKB-Salzwasserunion-course at the German isle of Spiekeroog. I picked up the German and Dutch participants at Neuharlingersiel while she left a day earlier in Eemshaven (in the Netherlands) to paddle on her own to Spiekeroog. No problem so far. But as she arrived home after the course, she found out that the car (with a kayak-roof-rack) she left behind near the harbour of Eemshaven caused a search action and that she was reported as a missed kayaker. This gave a lot of trouble with the Dutch authorities. Months later the incident isn’t solved yet, and will probably end in a prosecution action…

So when you make a multiple day trip and have to leave your car some days behind: inform the harbour authorities or other locals about your plans! In the Netherlands it’s a good habit to contact the coastguard about your seakayak trip before you start (and to report your arrival afterwards). Long ago I learned in the German and Austrian Alps as a mountaineer also always to leave a message behind. So I was rather surprised that in the German seakayak-scene it’s promoted to carry a VHF-radio along, but it’s unusual to inform the coastguard about your seakayak-plans.

1 comment:

Rene said...

Hi Hans,

Following your blog-text I guess you are mentioning me as being searched in Norway.
So you are also involved in this!!

First: I am back safely and did not have problems. Rather enjoyed a selfsupported mountainwalk of 15 days.

To be clear: not a real search was started as one of my friends returned the answer that we are experienced and hike always for extended periods. So the police decided not to take action, but to wait till the 3rd week.

Of course I feel rather embarrassed about the situation: I left the car really in the middle of a mountain area (not even in a village as you mention). So no person or locals nearby to leave a message. And leaving a note in the car, as the embassy suggests, seems quite silly to me and f.i. a hint to steal the car.
Last year it was somewhat easier as could park the car next to a mountainlodge where I left the message about the car and the planned date of return. (So I am aware that it is sensible thing to inform also other people, than family, about our plans)
The years before were much easier as we traveled by train with no-one knowing about us.

I am feeling a bit double about what is good or bad or sensible:
- most hiking Norwegians leave there cars like that.
- But as a few (dutch !?) tourist had accidents last weeks it is perfect that some Norwegians keep there eyes open for foreign cars. Really to appriciate.
- However, returned home, I phoned to the Dutch police, Dutch embassy Norway and to the local police in Norway to inform them being home and to appologize.
- Talking to the police, I learned they could not remember me: as nothing was recorded about it. Asking for advice about whom I could inform (for instance the local police) about our plans, I got the answer that this was not necessary and I could park the car where I want.

So whats the lesson:
- Like with seakayaking: leave always a message somewhere (not only at home but also locally).
- Putting more effort, at home and before starting the trip, in finding someone where leaving a messages does make sense.

Thx for your involment and Regards