Adventurers cross Tasman with aid of laptop

Saturday, 24 January, 2009

Carrying a laptop in a kayak across the Tasman Sea might seem insane, but it’s exactly what James Castrission and Justin Jones did in their journey from Australia to New Zealand.

When the pair made their trek in late 2007, the 3318 km journey made them the first ever kayakers to cross the Tasman Sea. The journey was the longest two-man kayak expedition ever undertaken.

Throughout the 62-day journey, the adventurers were faced with unpredictable seas, 10 metre swells and 50 knot winds, requiring a great amount of strength and determination to overcome the difficult conditions and complete the voyage.

The preparation for the expedition took more than three years and involved an extensive risk assessment. From this assessment it was determined that the journey could only be undertaken with a high level of communicational support. It was decided that they would require some sort of laptop able to link with their satellite phone, as they would need to communicate with their land team.

“It was critical that we had a laptop that was water resistant and able to absorb the severe shocks that accompany being tossed around in a kayak in a 30 ft sea state,” says Castrission.

After discussions with fellow adventurer Rex Pemberton, the pair decided to employ a Panasonic CF-18 Toughbook.

The decision to carry a laptop proved prudent when about halfway through their journey, the kayakers found themselves caught in a giant whirlpool. Unable to free themselves from the swirling waters, the boys spent two weeks making little to no progress, with the whirlpool forcing them to paddle an additional 800 km.

“We were able to monitor the currents and wind patterns, which guided us out of the whirlpool and back on course. It was crucial that we could receive updates on the conditions as they happened, as they were changing rapidly and we were forced to paddle throughout the night,” Castrission says.

In addition to receiving navigational information, the pair used the laptop to monitor heart rate data, back up photos and all electronic data, send images to their website and to email family and friends.

According to the pair, one of the most useful benefits of the laptop was that they could watch movies to entertain themselves and stay relaxed during the difficult times.

When the elements outside were at their worst, the boys were required to stay inside the confined space of their kayak. The laptop’s swivel screen allowed them both to view the screen when discussing navigation despite the limited mobility inside the vessel.

Jones says: “We could not control the amount of water that would get into the kayak, or the unexpected waves that would crash on top of us. It was reassuring to know that no matter how many times this would happen, the Toughbook would not be affected, and we would not be cut off from communicating with our team or tracking our progress.”

Now that they are back on land, Justin and James are looking forward to their next adventures, with plans to explore places ranging from the Sahara Desert to Antarctica.

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