The 4th annual Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference will be held on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 at the Star Gold Coast.
Mr Allan Mundy, National Lifesaving Services and Education Manager at Surf Life Saving New Zealand joins us at the Conference to present ‘Informing searches for missing persons: dynamics of topographic headland rip currents around New Zealand coastlines’.
Surf lifesaving organisations and other emergency services conduct searches for missing persons following immersions and suspected fatal drowning incidents. However, there is currently limited understanding of how near shore currents influence the location of missing persons, and responders end up covering large areas or searching based on local knowledge or ‘gut feel’. This project is therefore investigating the headland rip currents and how these influence the location of patients in the water.
The findings will be used to assess the drift patterns of patients both on top of the water and submerged within the water column. The data will be used as a reference for future searches and rescues undertaken in the areas surveyed. Dangers and associated risks to public safety will be better understood and the information made available to the public.
The project involves measuring headland rip current dynamics across a range of different swell, tidal and wind conditions throughout a 6 week period on selected beaches. The method used will set a data standard for future research on additional sites around the country and develop a library of information on coastal drift patterns.
Data collection involved collaboration between Surf Life Saving Clubs to carry out the deployment and retrieval of GPS drifters. They can easily replicate a swimmer within a rip current due to their weight and drifting nature. A selection of the GPS drifters were submerged in the water column to replicate the drifting behaviour of a body in the benthic currents; this was compared to the drifting behaviour of the GPS drifters floating on the surface in the same location.
To date, preliminary results from some of the GPS drifters have indicated some major variances in the current lifeguard understanding of where particular rip currents were travelling within the beaches surveyed.
A lifeguard for 39 years Allan still volunteers on his home beach of Omanu, New Zealand. He is currently the National Lifesaving Services and Education Manager. Allan is a Search and Rescue Coordinator, Subject Matter Expert and crews on the local Tauranga helicopter. In 2011 he was awarded New Zealand Life Guard of the Year. He worked as the Head of Science at Mount Maunganui College for 17 years. A Research Fellow for the Royal Society in 2010 focusing on benthic shellfish movement and continues his fascination of the coastal marine environment to this day.
For further information on the upcoming 2018 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference please visit the conference website.
Tags: New Zealand, rip currents, Surf lifesaving