What would I do if things go wrong...?

Submitted: Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 09:53
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All too frequently we hear and read about people lost in the Australian bush and outback, people ranging from foreign tourists, station workers, and even experienced bushmen.

There is a thread running currently regarding a man that was lost near Laverton and thankfully found to be reunited with his family. It is not my intention to develop another thread on that specific incident, comments on it should be added directly to it.

But it prompted me to give some broader thought to “what would I do if things go wrong”.

I have written on the topic previously in a blog titled Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face! which you can view and add your thoughts to directly – it is interesting to get other people’s perspective on planning…

But when an incident occurs there is usually speculation over the how, the why, the when, and even questions raised about who should foot the bill for searches, and rescues – a topic that will polarise people regularly.

Being an avid student of “risk management” I read and analyse these incidents with the information that is publically available. The conclusion that is often easy to draw is in many cases and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight those involved may have done things differently, or they may have planned the excursion differently.

We can all learn from these events, some of which have a better ending than others…In the least events like the recent one is a timely reminder that we should all be reviewing and refining our strategy for survival in the Bush and Outback should things not go the way we planned.

After all, it is easy to have a view on what one will do whilst sitting in the arm-chair with a cup of tea in hand – it is another thing altogether to enact or develop a plan when the proverbial " bleep " hits the fan and your body and mind is not functioning as normal, which is frequently the case once dehydration sets in, the onset of which can be very quick.

What would you do if things go wrong...?

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: MUZBRY- Life member(Vic) - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:06

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:06
This s not the answer you are after but,I play 'patience' quite often , and there is always someone coming to tell you which card to move. Also there are two out of three people that know more about your problem than you will yourself.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:18

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:18
Gday Muzbry

Quite to the contrary, I think it is a good answer, but patience needs to be an affirmative response, not just I will do nothing and see what develops.

Many incidents highlight that people knew what they should do, but failed to act despite it.

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:11

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:11

Not such a silly comment.

Bob Cooper, a well recognised Survival expert and trainer, includes a mini set of playing cards in his "Survival Kit" (which was available from the ExplorOz shop).

The cards have survival tips on them but also serve to keep the mind occupied and maintain a positive psychological attitude towards your situation.

I have two of these kits - on remains in the vehicle and one is in a backpack I grab if I have to abandon the vehicle.


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Reply By: pop2jocem - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:15

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:15
An excellent question Baz, and IMHO one well worth asking oneself, as you have done, before you go wandering or driving around in remote areas.
The preparation involved is so diverse depending on location, time of year, the knowledge and mindset of the individual and I guess the experience to know the question needs asking in the first place.
Personally I carry a small back pack with the usual elementary bits and bobs, water and a compass (or GPS) especially in the flat low scrub areas of Australia's arid and semi-arid interior. I don't know about others, but to me these are the easiest of places to become disoriented if on foot because of the lack of landmarks to pick up one's bearings, hence the compass and/or GPS.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:19

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:19
Hey Pop,

Agree, it pays to ask the question often, complacency is a killer...

cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:15

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:15
Likewise Pop

I too have a backpack with the essentials for survival in the back of the Land Cruiser. It saves searching around to pick up your gear if things go wrong. I have duplicate gear in the draws which is for everyday needs to ensure the backpack is never depleted.

My wife and children have been drilled to grab this first in the event of an accident or incident and move a safe distance from the vehicle and wait to see what is happening.



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Reply By: Member - Peter H1 (NSW) - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:26

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:26
Get a SPOT EPERB and you can always be found when you activate it. [sold in the Exploroz shop].

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:16

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:16
Emergency devices are a very practical way of letting others now there is a situation, and they range from a PLB that will alert the AMSA to Spot devices run by private enterprise.

But I think of them in much the same way as Airbags on a car, a great development in personal safety, but it is reactive, rather than proactive. People also need to have the ABS (Brakes) similar to a car, by developing a plan that is hopefully proactive in stopping an incident in the first place, or at least helping to minimise its impact.

Mind you, PLBs and emergency devices are a nominal cost and no doubt an invaluable part of any emergency kit – these days I don’t leave home without either.

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: Gaynor - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:13

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:13
As soon as you realise you may be lost and feel the panic start to rise - SIT DOWN.

Make a cup of tea or coffee if you have the makings. Prepare something to eat. In doing this action you create a pause where everything that is overwhelming you is put on hold and a space of nothingness-but-the-moment is created. A bubble.

If you don't have anything with you - SIT DOWN and breathe. Deep, calming breaths. Don't move for at least 10 minutes or until you feel calm return.

Sitting down stops you from running into further trouble and disorientation, compounding the problem you have found yourself in.

Fear and panic is what gets you deeper into trouble. It can even kill you.

Once calm has returned, take stock of the situation. What do you know for sure about your situation, your location? What tools, equipment, knowledge, skills do you have with you? Separate what you know for sure based on things that can be confirmed, against gut feel, fear and other emotions.

Whilst I am a person who runs on emotion, gut feel, instinct ... I have through experience realised that when blind fear/panic comes into the equation, these are almost always in error. My survival instincts are excellent ... but only when I control my fears.

SIT DOWN. Take stock of your situation. Make a plan. Take action.
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Follow Up By: Notso - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:19

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:19
That's the best bit of advice I've seen for a while!

I might just add Murphy's law. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" and Fitzpatrick's law which basically states that "Murphy was a flaming optimist!"
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:21

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:21
Great thoughts Gaynor...

Fear can cloud judgement!

And how true is that Notso!...

Cheer,s Baz - The Landy
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:06

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:06
What sage advice Gaynor.

Panic is our own worst enemy.

A calm mind leads to a clear path.


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Follow Up By: Neil & Pauline - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:14

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:14
That is good advice for any emergency situation. Sometimes only a few seconds will do, like in a car accident. Don't just jump out of the car to go back and abuse the guy that just rear ended you.
That "stop and think" was always given to us in volunteer bushfire training.

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Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:46

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:46
Good question Baz..

However I suspect that the answers we give here and how we intend to act may prove to be seriously tested when theory becomes reality.......all of us have a threshold of concern or might I say "panic level" where we may act impulsively and do things different to the "plan" on the day or at the time.

For the record I consider myself an experienced prospector and reasonably level headed but I confess to have experienced a couple of stomach jitters over the years when my camp not immediately where I thought it was ( GPS fix of camp didn't fix on one occasion) & another time I was just too bloody complacent and learnt a serious lesson (Isolated Kimberley's and found the vehicle at nearly midnight ...luckily fully moonlight)

Taking the two recent missing people in WA....I can tell you that in the sad case of the Sandstone couple I have prospected several times in that very spot and all I will say is that I don't consider that as "isolated" as the press make out, the old mines in that area don't lend themselves to the type of easily falling down them...the police are back out there now and I believe there is a lot more to this story to come and hopefully closure for the family

As for the recent bloke hunting and lost east of Laverton. Once again I have prospected in that general area and it is bloody inhospitable and you normally don't survive from a situation he found himself in.......a credit to his survival skills and apparent common sense when the chips were down...........no preparation...no food..no water......unbelievable

When prospecting I always enter my camp and vehicle into the GPS each time I move out regardless of how far I intend to walk...as sometimes you go further than intended....also obviously carry water UHF etc..that is standard every day stuff....and in most cases I am prospecting with a mate or two and we always arrange a time for smoko and lunch breaks and we all know roughly where the other is........out of sight and maybe a km or two apart but that's ok....and the UHF are there if needed

If prospecting alone I always carry on my person a SPOT and but not always the Sat phone

BUT on my belt in a couple of small camera type bags is my survival kit....permanently attached and not part of my every day prospecting preparation......it never comes off......That consists of

Space blanket
GPS with spare batteries (UHF and GPS use same size)
Small stainless reflective disk
Crepe bandages....suitable for snake bite
gas lighter + waterproof matches
Retractable knife
Couple of other smalls....that escape my mind at the moment

Now Baz if it all goes wrong when I am prospecting and I have that survival kit on me..(as I always do) ....what would I do?.

Well I plan on moving away from that "spot" as little as possible........If I did move I would try and indicate direction...sticks, stones, etc .....conserve energy and remaining water, seek shade warmth etc.......light a fire safely ..warmth ...smoke & night time visual.and wait it out for my mates to work it out and come looking....as they would know roughly the direction.....and hopefully UHF picks up..whistle etc..no SPOT on me so they had better try hard !

If I was out there on my own with no mates then I would have SPOT on me and after whatever time is appropriate that has passed and I consider my life in danger then I would activate SPOT

That's the theory........hopefully I never test it.......armchair plans are great....sometimes reality changes these

Life is a journey, it is not how we fall down, it is how we get up.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:54

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:54
Hey Bungarra

I think that is a great account of how you would approach it, especially on ‘what you would do”. Very practical thoughts, thanks!

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Member - MARIC - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:46

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:46
We do a lot of prospecting in the outback and we both carry a Bushnells Backtracker, simple to operate and smaller than a pack of fags. So far so good.
After an aquaintance of ours got lost west of Menzies, he had no bush skills and by mere fortune we found him after only 4 hours searching and no tyres staked in the search
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Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:48

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 at 11:48
I reckon there's a pretty simple equation that suits the scenario.

The amount of trouble you get into, is directly related to how well-prepared you are, and how much forethought you have put into your moves.

Now, I know we are all guilty of occasional lapses of judgement and occasional errors in planning - and once in hundred thousand times, events combine and conspire to work against you.

But a little forethought, some care in operation, and discipline, can reduce the chances of those unforeseen events making your life very difficult.

I have known numerous people who have been caught out by unforeseen events that either resulted in a miraculous escape from death, resulted in injury, or resulted in death.

The injury and death ones were almost without fail, the result of carelessness, a casual attitude to potential dangers, or just plain risk-taking behaviour.

I knew an old farmer who lived alone and who owned a big old Dodge ute with a beam front axle.
He was driving around a back paddock and he got a flat in one front tyre.
He pulled out the jack, jacked it up, removed the wheel and then found he couldn't fit the spare because the axle wasn't high enough.
He'd run out of lift in the jack, so he had to do something to re-position the jack to get more lift.
He found a very large stone and rolled it under the axle beam with the intention to lower the axle onto the stone, so he could "get another bite" with the jack.
However - as he rolled the stone under the axle beam, the jack slipped, pinning his hand between the axle and the stone.
So ... here he was, trapped in an isolated paddock .. with no communication ability, no-one checking on him regularly, apart from neighbours that would perhaps come looking for him when they hadn't seen him for days ... and with the only assistance being the things he could reach from his trapped position.
He was a tough and resourceful old coot, though. He managed to reach the wheelbrace with his foot and he kicked it towards him.
He used the wheelbrace to chip away at the rock with his free hand, until he could free his trapped hand. It took him 2 days.
Despite his mangled hand, he managed to finish changing the wheel and then drove himself to hospital.
He was well over 70 when he did this, but he survived with no major disability.
The simple fact remains, he got careless.
He placed his hand in a position where it could be trapped, without realising it, or understanding the likely death potential of becoming trapped.

I have numerous other stories of blokes becoming trapped when they got careless, but I won't relate them here. Some were fatal and horrible deaths.

The Australian bush, the seas, and mechanised equipment all hold the ability to kill any of us, very very quickly - unless we make ourselves fully aware of the hidden dangers, and take prudent steps to minimise our risk of being caught by those dangers, to very low levels.
Essentially, this is what all OH&S revolves around.


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Reply By: Member - Robert1660 - Thursday, Oct 15, 2015 at 23:28

Thursday, Oct 15, 2015 at 23:28
Some excellent material in this thread. I thought I should comment on a topic that has been touched on here and that is overseas tourists hiring 4wd campervans and heading off to some rather isolated places. On our recent crossing of the Great Central Road we met a couple from Switzerland. They really had little idea of what they were going to encounter on their trip. Certainly this is not the most isolated places that they could have visited but it is potentially dangerous because of the general isolation and lack of any mobile phone coverage. They did comment on the distances that they had travelled up to the time we met them in Warakurna. They had travelled from Perth.
Fortunately they were travelling in May so temperature was not an issue but I do wonder if they had been advised about relevant aspects that most of us consider before we venture out.
I am uncertain what the rental companies tell these people but possibly it is something that does need to be addressed. I do recall renting 4wd campervans a couple of times in the past, before I knew what I know now about 4wd travel, and recalling that very little was discussed about travel in isolated locations. Probably the most serious omission was not being told at the time of the importance of correct tyre pressures. Essential knowledge for getting out of trouble in sandy conditions.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Friday, Oct 16, 2015 at 06:44

Friday, Oct 16, 2015 at 06:44
Hi Robert

Yes, this is an issue that is raised frequently, I'm not sure if there is a "standard" that should be met in terms of information provided, but given many foreign tourist's have no idea what toreally expect, perhaps there should be.

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 04:29

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 04:29
I had a situation that went wrong way back in 1967 when I missed a detour in the dark on Todmorden Stn West of Oodnadatta, I had plenty of food and water so I sat and waited ...and waited for 39 hours, eventually a vehicle from Todmorden came along and pulled the old EK out, but hell it's amazing in situations like that how you think you hear something when all it is is the wind in the bushes.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 08:23

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 08:23
Thanks for sharing Doug, and I think that in most cases, if not all, the golden rule is stay with the vehicle...

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:27

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:27
Jeez, Doug - You did everything wrong! You should've just grabbed your rifle and run off way into the bush in your thongs, with no food or water - and within hours, a multi-million-dollar search involving police, civilians, the TRG, choppers and fixed-wing aircraft, blacktrackers, and the SES, would be underway - and you'd have been found much more quickly, than just waiting it out by your vehicle with food and water! I just don't understand your thinking!? LOL

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:41

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:41
Gee Ron I didn't think of that back then, but I will add that if....IF I had my profile photo with me I wouldn't want to be found...lol but hey July 1967 she was only 18 months old.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54

We rescue all kinds of people in our society – and isn’t that a great thing!

Had Doug did as you suggest there is no doubt there would have been men and women from all walks of life willing to go and find him. And I doubt you would hear one complaint regardless of how he found himself in that predicament.

Would have you been one of them, or would have you been in the arm-chair complaining to the “shock jocks” on talk-back radio?

The Landy…
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 13:22

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 13:22
Baz, I've not said anywhere that I wouldn't go and assist in searches for people that are lost.
I'm just cheesed off about the constant raving about "what a great bushman" this lost hunter was.
My idea of the personal qualities and skills of "a great bushman", and many others ideas of "a great bushman", is at substantial variance, I'm afraid.
And I'm not an armchair expert - I have spent many years working and living in the Australian bush, and often working alone without immediate support, and no communications as well.
You do things with care, preparation, and forethought when in the Outback, or you die very quickly.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 14:55

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 14:55

Let's get his side of the story and what happened before passing any further judgement.

After all, he hasn't made any claims or indicated why he found himself in the situation he did.

But this thread is not about that issue there is a thread already running if you want to comment further on the missing man.

But if you have thoughts or further insights that will advance the discussion on the topic I raised, great. Please contribute...

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 19:38

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 19:38
Baz - Everything, that every single person should know and learn - about survival and forethought and planning when going bush - is in the bushcraft and survival guide booklet, produced by the W.A. Police Academy.
This booklet is available on-line - or a hard copy is available from most W.A. Police Stations.
It's shame more people don't study it, instead of racing off into the bush, half cocked and badly prepared.

This booklet is free to all, has no copyright, has been assembled by many people with extensive bush knowledge - and it can be downloaded from the first link in the Google search results link below;

W.A. Police Bushcraft and Survival guide - 2007

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 22:43

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 22:43
It is a good read and I have reviewed it many times and I'm sure others will be familiar with it.

For those that aren't this is a good opportunity to take a look.

Ron, you are a person that appears to have much to contribute, as a suggestion, rather than tossing out "half-cocked" criticisms based on assumptions why not share the wisdom of your knowledge as I'm sure many would benefit.

I come to learn from the forum and to contribute where I can - share the knowledge and perhaps be a little less judgemental in your delivery.

Just a thought...

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Follow Up By: Gaynor - Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 08:24

Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 08:24
The PDF Ron was referring to. Thank you for this. Always learning.


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Reply By: Slow one - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 20:08

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 20:08
I saw a program on the British Airways plane that had a flameout on all engines after it flew threw an ash cloud from a volcano in Indonesia, you probably remember the incident.

I still remember the captain explaining in a very british accent, that the first thing he did was sit on his hands. When questioned about this his answer was. Oh yes we were taught this in flying school. Don't do anything silly, sit on your hands and think about the problem.

To put that big plane with all it's occupants into a dive to restart those jet engines, must have taken some big balls. I think the engines cleared and restarted around 10,000 feet.

Have done this sort of things for many years but never at that extreme.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 22:46

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 at 22:46
I often flew with an old school pilot who said to me When it all goes to custard, yell an obscenity, take a deep breath and than star thinking about the situation, all in that order.

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Gaynor - Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 11:45

Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 11:45
This year I did bushtucker and water research on the Canning Stock Route.

At the end of it I knew that I had not learned enough to do a live-off-the-land walk of the CSR, but decided to see how long I could last on bushtucker alone anyway.

I am resistant to killing despite having no qualms about eating someone else's kill. That does not mean I have not killed. I just don't like doing it. My hope was that I would get hungry enough to get over that resistance.

After nine days foraging for and eating plant food only, except for mud mussels, I lost 7kg.

Feelings of hunger switched off and the discomfort was not an issue. I knew that I could stop the experiment at anytime and eat the food in the vehicle. There was no urgency as in a real survival situation. That meant I was not motivated to kill.

I believe I could have survived on plant bushtucker for another ten days before risking organ damage.But I had already learned that I was not up to the task of a 3 month walk on bushtucker alone and so I resumed eating normal food.

I have been in a few situations where food was scarce. On some of my survival walks, people had never missed a meal in their life. Going without food in the past taught me what to expect and that I could survive it. Experience takes the fear out of many situations.

I don't often hear of people dying from starvation in Australia. Water and heat exhaustion seem to be the main killer when people go wandering off getting lost or breaking down.

Take care of your body temperature. Take care of your water needs. You can last a few weeks without food. Not eating food for a few days is not as bad as you might think. Also, in eating, your body requires water to digest. Eating food and having no water is not recommended by Bob Cooper.

Something else I learned. Because I was eating very little food, my body was burning fat and muscle at a moderate to high rate. My body was eating its reserves. This was not dangerous in those 9 days, but raised a red flag due to my Keytone levels being moderate to high. Despite feeling fine, although a little weak, this issue was picked up by the nurse in Kunawarritji. My urine sample was the colour of cranberry juice. I never noticed this tell-tale whilst peeing into the sand. I also had not realised that my body had stopped asking for water. When she asked me when last I had urinated ... I could not remember doing so in the last 24 hours. This is an unusual error for me. I usually border on over-hydration.

Moral of the story: Keep you body temperature as comfortable as you can and look after your water intake, monitoring your urine colour and frequency of urination. Food is the least of your concerns.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 11:51

Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 11:51

Great that you have been able to share the experience!

Thanks, Baz
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Follow Up By: Gaynor - Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 12:50

Monday, Oct 19, 2015 at 12:50
Outback Survive and Thrive is of keen interest to me.

Thank you for starting this thought provoking topic, Baz.

Survival is like First Aid. Regular reminders are key to influencing a positive outcome when the reality of a bad situation arrives unexpectedly.

Glad I am able to add a couple of personal experience observations of my own.
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