Two hikers trapped Wednesday on a riverbank in New Zealand's Arthur's Pass National Park used the satellite SOS feature on their iPhone 14 to summon help for first time in the country.
As the result of heavy rain runoff in the area, water levels near the Sudden Valley Stream in Arthur's Pass began to rise to an unsafe level, according to news reports. The hikers were unable to navigate around or through the hazard and summoned emergency services using the iPhone 14's Emergency SOS by Satellite feature.
The feature connects the iPhone to a network of satellites operated by GlobalStar, enabling users to locate a satellite overhead, then send a series of pre-formatted messages and their precise location. The information is transmitted to ground crews for verification, who then dispatch emergency services.
Emergency SOS by Satellite launched in November 2022 in the U.S. and Canada, after Apple previewed the feature with the launch of the iPhone 14. Apple activated the feature in Australia and New Zealand in May, after introducing the feature in several European Union nations following the U.S. and Canada launch.
New Zealand air and rescue ambulance operator GCH Aviation and Canterbury West Air Rescue Service coordinated the rescue efforts. Canterbury confirmed its involvement in the rescue operation through its Instagram account.
"Did you know that an iPhone 14 has an SOS feature that can connect via satellite and alert authorities if you become lost or injured out in the backcountry?
"Yesterday we were able to respond to some hikers stranded in a river because they had this technology with them," the company reported.
Due to the relative novelty of Apple's service, the air rescue company advised its customers instead to rely on Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), dedicated devices which use satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.