Yukon search and rescue volunteers were sent on a bit of a wild goose chase earlier this week, after they received an S.O.S. message from a remote mountainous area south of Whitehorse.

The three hour search, involving an RCMP search party and a helicopter with volunteers on board, eventually found where the alert came from — a so-called "pocket dialled" GPS unit.

Police said they received the first S.O.S. message, late Monday afternoon, from an area near Carcross. They attempted to get contact information, to identify the unit's owner or the owner's relatives. They had no luck.

Because the call had come from a remote area, RCMP immediately organized a search. A search party headed to the area and a helicopter was also dispatched.

In the meantime, two more S.O.S. messages arrived, with GPS coordinates showing the signaling device was slowly moving.


Yukon RCMP recommend you carry a GPS unit or SPOT device on your person when heading into remote areas. (Russ Knutson)

Three hours after the first alert, police traced the coordinates to a couple, safely driving on the Annie Lake Road, back towards Whitehorse. 

They told police they hadn't knowingly called for help. They checked their pack and found the GPS unit, which had apparently been jostling around and periodically hitting the S.O.S. button while they were hiking.

In a news release, Yukon RCMP said such accidental distress calls "are not uncommon". They urge anybody heading into remote areas to carry communication devices on them, instead of packed in their gear.