Woman stuck in bog on uninhabited island for hours

Injured hiker was terrified and exhausted when she was rescued after using three-word code.

Woman stuck in bog on uninhabited island for hours Matthew Newby via SWNS
Alison Winter, 41, became stranded on Shuna.

A walker stuck waist-deep in a bog on an uninhabited island for four hours was rescued thanks to an emergency app – which led ferryman to her using just three words.

Alison Winter, 41, became stranded on Shuna, part of the Slate Islands, Inner Hebrides, as she made her way towards a hilltop viewpoint.

But she was rescued after alerting ferrymen to her location using geocoding app what3words, which gave Alison the unique location code of “escalates, removing, lows”.

Alison had no phone signal but had luckily already downloaded the app after seeing author Neil Gaiman tweet about it coming to his rescue when his car broke down.

The What3words app in use. Matthew Newby SWNS.
The What3words app in use. Matthew Newby SWNS.

It took just eight minutes for Alison to be rescued after sending ferrymen the three-word location.

Alison arrived on the island via the local ferry service last August and came across a pair of fellow hikers who recommended a great viewpoint.

But as she made her way towards the hilltop, the conditions underfoot worsened and Alison quickly found herself struggling with the terrain – and fell into a bog.

Writer Alison, who is an axperienced hiker, said: “It was an extremely hot and sunny day.

“I wasn’t expecting the island to be waterlogged because no one can really appreciate how much rainfall Scotland gets until you live there.

“I realised that I’d ventured into what was essentially a swamp.

The What3words app in use. Matthew Newby SWNS.
The What3words app in use. Matthew Newby SWNS.

“The grass was 5ft high and the ground was completely unstable.

“I fell into a bog up to my waist, had to dig out my shoes, and just kept rolling my ankles and falling badly.

“At that moment, however, I had zero network coverage, so had to continue trudging through marshland and what can only be described as malicious tussocks.

“I eventually got phone signal whilst balancing on a relatively stable mound and managed to get hold of the ferryman.

“It was 3pm by this time and I’d been in difficulty for hours but was trying to rectify the situation myself.

“I knew exactly whereabouts I was on the island – I had my bearings and my sense of direction, but I couldn’t get across the waterlogged terrain.

“It was terrifying and exhausting.

“They prompted me to use what3words app so they could locate me and collect me by boat – without that they could have been searching for hours by land.

“Luckily I already had it on my phone as I don’t think the patchy signal would have coped with downloading it there and then.”

The what3words app is able to pinpoint any location on earth using just three words.

The geocoding system has divided the planet into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, with each assigned a three-word combination as an ‘address’.

Alison added: “The boat came as close as it could into the rocky cove, so I had to get over 30ft of rocks, mostly in the water.

“My hands were cut up, but nothing was broken, although I do think I might have slightly cracked a shinbone.

“I’d been rambling in the hot sun for hours, was bleeding, and being bitten to pieces as my repellent wasn’t strong enough.

“Although I was prepared if I did have to survive a night there, it would have been awful. I felt like I was in The Walking Dead.

“If it wasn’t for the app, I expect a helicopter or rescue services might have been involved, not good during a pandemic and I felt terribly aware of not wanting to cause trouble.

“The situation could have turned out differently if I hadn’t already had what3words on my phone and the ferryman hadn’t had the ingenuity to suggest I use it.

“You can do everything right, but something can still go wrong.

“So many people are reliant on walking as their sole form of exercise right now, and you never know when you might be in a situation like I was.

“I’m keen to help spread the word that this app could genuinely save your life – or at the very least end a traumatic situation.”