Excerpt from The Shetland Times “Views from the Scord” Column 27/08/10 (Mark Burgess)
Canoe Club in Vital Rescue Exercise
Eight members of the Bridge End based Shetland Canoe Club had to be rescued from a west side beach on Sunday morning, after a dive vessel in the area exploded causing serious injury to members of the group, as well as to members of the boats crew and one fatality.
However, it wasn’t all bad, as the hypothermic and blast injured sea-kayakers enjoyed freshly made bacon rolls and cups of tea on the beach at Silwick while passing the time until rescue.
This catastrophic scenario, excluding the bacon rolls of course, was part of a Coastguard rescue exercise involving the local Coastguard cliff rescue teams, the Aith Lifeboat and the Anglian Prince, emergency tug vessel. The operation, entitled Exercise “Unni” was co-ordinated from the Coastguard base in Lerwick and involved members of several of the regional cliff rescue teams. The scenario was made all the more realistic with the addition of some shockingly realistic makeup provided by visiting makeup specialist Unni Gru, for whom the exercise was named.
The exercise began early on Sunday morning and had the sea kayaking group take up position on a beach unknown to the rescue services after reporting their intended outing, in keeping with the realism of the exercise. Concurrently the Anglian Prince took up position south of Westerwick to play the role of the vessel upon which a blast had taken place, with a member of the crew, a coastguard volunteer and Unni herself made up to simulate blast injuries and a dummy used to simulate a fatality. The kayak group had been near to the vessel when the blast took place, and aside from direct injuries, the group had theoretically spend time in the water, before making it to the shore. After radio communications from both the Anglian Prince and the kayakers the coastguard teams and lifeboat deployed and very soon found and rescued the stricken casualties, uplifting them in safe and professional manner soon after receiving the call. The addition of the make-up and victims exhibiting hypothermia and shock symptoms gave the coastguard volunteers and lifeboat crew a very realistic chance to utilise their first aid skills at sea and on the beach. Afterward those taking part were treated to some highly praised lunch in the Skeld hall and a de-brief at which John Webster of the Coastguard thanked all the volunteers for taking part, and Unni for her unique talent and input to the scenario. Apologies should probably go to anyone who met the volunteers in their scenario make-up on their way home on Sunday afternoon, it may have come as quite an unpleasant surprise to the unwitting bystander.