Polar walker rescued by cell phone

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

LONDON -- A man who became stranded during a solo trek to the North Pole was brought to safety Monday, after sending an electronic photo proving an air rescue in the treacherous Arctic was possible.

David Mill, a 34-year-old Scot, dug a 1,000-foot runway in the snow for an emergency plane and then sent a picture of the runway via his hand-held computer.

"In the Arctic you cannot land an aircraft by computer, and I had to prove that the pilot would have a clear line of sight," Mill said.

Mill set out from Canada's most northerly point two months ago equipped with a sled, which could double as a small boat, and 265 pounds of other gear.

Last week, he became marooned on an ice floe after a series of problems, failing to reach his destination. Though he had a mobile phone and a handheld computer, he felt he had to prove the feasibility of an air rescue. He dug the runway then took pictures of the site and the sky before using the phone and computer to e-mail the images to rescuers in Resolute Bay, Canada.

On Monday, he was rewarded for his efforts. A plane landed on the homemade runway and rescued him.

Mill praised the pilot.

"It was an incredible piece of flying," he told Press Association, the British national news agency, in a telephone interview from Resolute Bay, Canada.

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