Insight | Case study: Laura Bingham


Case study: Laura Bingham


All-female team completes world-first river expedition using BGAN and IsatPhone 2.

Laura Bingham is an English explorer and adventurer. After leaving home at the age of 18, Laura travelled through the Greek islands, continental Europe, Africa, Asia and North and Central America before eventually landing in Mexico, where she taught English and undertook challenging conservation work to protect the endangered jaguar. Challenging herself even further, Laura and a crew of two men and a cat sailed back home to England across the Atlantic in a 38ft trimaran. She gained worldwide renown in 2016 when she cycled across South America with no money to raise funds and awareness for a children’s charity in Paraguay called Operation South America.

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Laura Bingham

The challenge

In 2018, Laura Bingham, Pip Stewart and Ness Knight – three female explorers – aimed to set a new world record as the first team to canoe the length of the Essequibo River in Guyana.

Starting in the Acarai Mountains in southern Guyana, the Essequibo flows for 1,014km (630 miles) through remote Wai Wai land, untouched virgin rainforest, unknown rapids, waterfalls, contentious gold mining camps, tiny villages and a sprawling city until it meets the Atlantic Ocean. However, a significant portion of the upper river is unknown to most, making it one of the last great exploratory wonders of the world. Before 2018, no team had ever canoed the river from source to ocean.

As a result, Laura and her team knew that there would be moments where they would be completely disconnected from the outside world, with no access to cellular or terrestrial connectivity. This not only posed a significant risk to their health and safety, but it also meant that Laura and her team could not share their experiences with the outside world while they were happening. Laura and her team needed a solution that would ensure her team were able to stay connected and safe, no matter where they were in their journey.

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The solution

Throughout the 10-week expedition, Laura and her team relied on Inmarsat to keep them connected with the outside world.

A compact Explorer 510 BGAN terminal was tucked away in one of their inflatable kayaks, allowing them to chart their journey through photos, video and blogs shared with their supporters thousands of miles away. BGAN  is trusted by governments, armed forces and companies to keep them connected when everything else fails and exhibits a 99.9% uptime, which ensured that at any point along the Essequibo River they could get connected and share their experiences with the outside world.

For peace of mind, they also carried an IsatPhone 2 satellite phone , which allowed them to pinpoint their location and call for assistance at the touch of a button in an emergency. Operating on the most reliable satellite communications network in the world, IsatPhone 2 is engineered to withstand the most extreme weather conditions. This meant that Laura and her team could be safe in the knowledge that, even in the harshest parts of the Essequibo, they could call for help when they needed it most. 

The results

In April 2018, Laura and her team successfully completed their world-first expedition.

Fortunately, the team did not experience any pressing emergencies, but there were plenty of challenges to overcome during the journey. First, they had to find the source of the river in the remote interior of Guyana, cutting a path through previously uncharted jungle. The Essequibo – the largest river between the Orinoco and the Amazon – has treacherous rapids and is home to caimans and piranhas, and the women had to paddle for long days in tropical heat and humidity.

Expedition leader Laura Bingham said: “I am so delighted to have led my all-female team to success in this world-first Essequibo expedition. At the heart of our journey was a deep-rooted passion to explore and share, and Inmarsat allowed us to show all the challenges, highlights and hardships as we experienced them. By taking our supporters on the journey with us, I hope that we have inspired women everywhere to be courageous and adventurous in their own lives, in whatever way they can.”

Key benefits of BGAN and IsatPhone 2:

  • Inmarsat provides connectivity where infrastructure is damaged or does not exist
  • IsatPhone 2 allows responders to speak with their team and co-ordinate activities on the ground or back at base
  • BGAN provides connectivity for multiple devices to support a mobile operations centre
  • BGAN allows fundraisers to share images and video back home to boost fundraising efforts