The man is in his 70s and known locally as the “Hermit of Loch Treig.” He is believed to live in a log cabin he built for himself in the middle of the woods.
Also known simply as “Ken,” the man would regularly activate a beacon to let friends and family know he was well.
However, on Feb. 3, that signal was changed to an SOS and picked up by a response center thousands of miles away in Houston, Texas.
The International Emergency Response Coordination Center then notified Britain’s HM Coastguard, which sent a Scottish rescue helicopter to check on the man.
Upon discovering the man was very ill and needed urgent medical assistance, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was then called in to move him to a location suitable for a helicopter to winch him up.
Team leader John Stevenson said in a statement: “The helicopter winchman ascertained that the chap was unwell and needed to be taken to hospital. He has lived off-grid in that area for quite some time.
“We got a call around 9 p.m. to take seven of us by helicopter to as close as the aircraft could land. We then reached the man’s dwelling and took him by stretcher to the helicopter. It was a very well coordinated rescue.”
Internationally Coordinated Rescue
The man was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital where he is reportedly recovering well.
Neil Blewett, from HM Coastguard, said in a statement that the result was “excellent” thanks to the vigilance of the UK’s coastguard services working together.
“When the man activated his beacon that signal went via satellite to Houston, which then gets sent to our mission control center for attention,” he said. “What must seem a very long way round for an alert to reach us is actually very quick thanks to the satellite technology that we use.
He added, “In this case, the man’s activation of his beacon, the satellites, and the SPOT beacon itself saved his life because without any of those we would not have known he needed urgent help. We have since heard that the man is doing well and we wish him a speedy recovery so that he can return home as soon as possible.”
The SPOT beacon he was carrying works using GPS and has various functions to signal that a person with the device is either OK, needs help in a non-life threatening situation, or requires emergency assistance.
According to an online forum post, in 2012, Ken was looking well but was “suffering from various cancers,” though still managing to go visit local services for provisions.