Great Barrier Marine Radio Services

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Unsung Heroes:
Calming voice across troubled waters

NZ Herald Wednesday Mar 25, 2009
By Vaimoana Tapaleao

She is regarded as the angel of the sea in Great Barrier Island, helping lost and distressed boaties find their way home.

Emma Pratt has been the comforting voice behind the marine radio on the Barrier for 16 years.

Acting as the first point of call for boaties, she starts at 7am, keeping watch and liaising with police and emergency services when there is a lost boat at sea.

"It's really neat knowing you can help somebody and for them to know that you're there at the other end of the line," she said.

Although her shift officially ends at 10pm, Ms Pratt is always on hand to deal with any emergencies after hours and is known to stay on the radio all night to comfort those distressed.

Ms Pratt said several cases where a major emergency has occurred - like an elderly man suffering a heart attack and another person threatening to commit suicide - have tested her nerves.

"You've just got to stay calm. You can usually tell in their voice that there's a bit of panic there and once they know that help is coming it calms them down."

Friend Joy Nicholson - who nominated Ms Pratt as an unsung hero - said her calming nature makes her ideal for the role.

"If you're out there on a boat in rough weather, lost, just lying there and you can hear her voice - just hearing that voice comforts you," Mrs Nicholson says.

"She's the angel of the sea."