Trimble  have announced that they are sponsoring a National Geographic-funded scientific and exploratory expedition currently underway in Gabon, West Central Africa.

The six-week expedition, “The Search for Gabon’s Sacred Rain Forest Caves,” seeks to obtain full World Heritage Site status for the caves from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

As one of the team’s sponsors, Trimble is providing the expedition with a Trimble Nomad rugged handheld computer with Global Positioning System (GPS) capability.

The expedition team, which includes National Geographic Young Explorer grantee Trevor Frost, is using the Nomad while canvassing the dense rain forest in search of caves, archaeological discoveries and new species.

Specifically, the team is using the Nomad to mark cave entrances and rock-carved petroglyphs as well as the locations of new species and other important discoveries, and for mapping cave-rich limestone areas known as karst.

The area the expedition is exploring is one of the most wild and biologically diverse intact regions in the world, and also supports one of the last populations of indigenous Pygmies in Africa.

One of the goals of the expedition is to help the Gabonese authorities, who plan to request World Heritage Site status from UNESCO to preserve and protect the sacred caves in the Lastoursville and Ndende regions of Gabon.

"When we designed the Nomad, we intended it to be used in some of the world’s most harsh work environments," said Rob Davis, Director of sales and Marketing for Tripod Data Systems, a Trimble company.

“This is certainly a great example of what we had in mind. We’re proud that the Nomad is rugged enough for this work, and we’re honored to be able to help an expedition of this scientific and cultural importance.”

“The Trimble Nomad was the best choice for this expedition. We need rugged computing and positioning tools we can count on in an environment that includes dense tropical rain forest, flooding rivers, thousands of forest elephants, bad roads and Ebola outbreaks,” said Frost.

“I’m confident that the Nomad will withstand everything we encounter. And after the expedition is over, those hurdles will make better stories and the whole trip more rewarding.”

The Nomad is designed for all-day operation in extreme outdoor and industrial environments. It meets MIL-STD-810F military standards for drops, vibration and temperature extremes.

Impervious to water and dust, it also carries an IP67 rating. The Nomad includes an 806MHz processor, a long-life battery, integrated wireless capabilities including GPS, 802.11g and Bluetooth, and the option to add an integrated laser bar code scanner and a colour digital camera.

The Nomad also features a high-resolution, sunlight-visible VGA display that shows graphics and maps in crisp detail.