Perils of the Outback

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 11:56
ThreadID: 137426 Views:4395 Replies:12 FollowUps:15
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Very sadly, a motorcyclist has lost his life due to heat exposure in the Kimberley region.

This comes soon after a hiker died of suspected dehydration in Kalbarri National Park.

These two events highlight the perils of remote outback travel especially during times of high temperatures and people who contemplate it such as Steve in Thread 137240 would do well to take heed of the possibilities of danger that they place themselves and their families in when undertaking such travel. The fact that they raise the question on this forum indicates lack of experience of such travel.

Certainly, many have travelled without crisis but it takes only an unexpected event to produce a life-threatening situation when in these zones. They are best avoided in summer but if must be travelled then adequate safety equipment should be carried and this is somewhat more than the popular UHF radio which some may consider their "lifeline".

It may seem insensitive but enquirers like Steve could be referred to the above events when asking about undertaking such travel.


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Reply By: LAZYLUX16 - Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 15:06

Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 15:06
Not good. I was working off Birdsville track Mid November. I was in camp and saw trail of dust on track .To my astonishment a Japanese guy on 80cc Motorcycle rocked up asking for water. I think Gov need to supply info sheet to Foriegners when they enter Australia on perils of outback.
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Reply By: Hoyks - Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 16:08

Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 16:08
I'm pretty sure they do, but I don't think an info sheet will help, its all a matter of scale and what you are familiar with. You have to experience the amount of bugger all Australia has between anything before you can truly appreciate it.

I grew up in NSW and would look at my road atlas (remember them) and plan a days trip based on the distance across a page. Armed with the same atlas I then moved to Queensland, oh I knew the scale of the map changed, but didn't truly appreciate it until I'd driven all day at a higher average speed, but still didn't cover 1/2 the page.
Locality markers can get you unstuck too, some look like a town on the map but don't even have a house still standing, so relying on them can be an issue.

I was in Katherine and 2 RAF maintainers were asking if they could borrow a car to duck down to Sydney for the weekend, they had no concept of the distances involved.

My uncle went to visit some relatives in England and told them that they would go and visit an aunt.
'So you will be back tomorrow then?'
'No, back tonight'
'Oh, but its so far!' was 80km each way, my wife has made me drive further for milk!.

And anyway, Daniel Price was from Perth, experienced and well prepared by all accounts. Heat stroke has a nasty habit of sneaking up on you and by the time you are hot, exhausted your judgement is compromised its probably too late.
Personally, working hard I have emptied 7L of water and still got admitted to hospital with heat exhaustion. Its easy to get to a point where you are a bit dehydrated and no matter how much you pour down your neck you can't catch up.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 16:30

Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 16:30
You're right Hoyks....Australia is a vast country.

The news item said Daniel was "a fly-in fly-out worker from Karratha" so he would have probably be a mine worker and familiar with outback conditions, even so......

The report also said..."It appears Mr Price became bogged in soft ground" -- so he may have been struggling to free his motorbike and become overstressed.

The above is speculative of course but does show how easily disaster can come upon a person out there in heat.

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Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 08:03

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 08:03
Hi hoyks, I used to build steel cattle yards for a living years ago. Didn’t matter the season we just worked. Had a team of at least 4 men, we all had 2 5 litre willow water bottles each. Can’t ever remember drinking both dry in a day but it was close. We never drank beers after work because you really paid for it the next day. We used to have a coke after work.

No fancy phones back then with a weather app to tell you the temperature. It was just bloody hot work. Welding in the blazing sun with a leather jacket on was no fun but the money was the same colour as everyone else’s.

Had some bloody tough men working for me back then. The type of men that just don’t exist anymore. You wouldn’t get a young fella to work in those conditions these days.

Sad to hear about those blokes that died. Be a horrid way to go.

Cheers Greg
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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 10:47

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 10:47
A facts sheet with details of deaths that have occurred due to things such as snakebite, crocodiles, dehydration etc. in the outback would be useful. Also, some time ago you could get a map of Australia with other countries to scale superimposed on it. Picked one up at Erldunda Roadhouse a few years ago and sent it to a friend in the US. He was amazed at just how large Australia actually is. Something like this might also be useful to foreign visitors. However, you can give people all the facts, but if they do not take notice & prepare accordingly, it does not make any difference.

Sadly, in Daniels case, even though he was an experienced outback traveller, he still succumbed to the conditions. An EBIRB/PLB may have helped if he had been conscious enough to be able to deploy it.


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Follow Up By: LAZYLUX16 - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 20:05

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 20:05
Greg J1.I worked with guys in Simpson they would knock back a carton easy and work next day. My limit was 7, after a few days back at work no hangovers but drank 20litres of water from Igloo .I broke down by myself no Radio as worked with Explosives, the buggers in camp didn't notice I was missing ,finally 11pm someone came looking for me. Today they carry everything available for communication.
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Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 07:31

Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 07:31
They probably didn’t realise you were missing because they were into their carton. Haha.

I know blokes who can drink heaps after work and still work the next day. I was just trying to say that alcohol dehydrates you.

As well I had indigenous staff so much better off keeping them dry. Great hard working men when they are sober, different story when they were on the sauce. I enjoy drinking stubbies on a hot day as much as the next bloke, but you can’t have different standards in a small camp like that so we enjoyed a few cokes after work.

Cheers Greg
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Follow Up By: tim_c - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 14:48

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 14:48
A fact sheet might seem like a good idea, but if a traveller gets loaded down with fact sheets on arrival, they probably aren't going to read them all (particularly if English is a second, third or fourth language) - afterall, they're usually here to enjoy a holiday, not sit around for a couple of weeks reading about the various perils that may or may not be relevant to their intended travel plans.

I'm sorry I don't know what the answer is, but I'd suggest a fact sheet is probably not it.

How many of us read the Desert Parks information pack cover-to-cover before venturing into the first SA desert park? The time may have been better spent preparing your vehicle for remote area travel...
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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 23:29

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 23:29
I do


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Reply By: AlbyNSW - Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 18:16

Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 18:16
The sad thing in these situations is that emergency coms are so affordable and easy to carry these days
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 19:49

Sunday, Nov 04, 2018 at 19:49
This is the entrance to the track I believe he was found on.

Drove this track a few months ago and at times there are tracks everywhere and you need a very good navigation system to know where to go. This may have contributed to his demise.

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Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 11:45

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 11:45
The ABC News has posted a further item relating to this subject.........

"Most Outback Deaths are Preventable"

In this report the outback survival expert Bob Cooper says.....
"Most Outback deaths were preventable if people took sensible precautions.
These included increasing water intake and drinking at least 250 millilitres at a time, instead of taking small sips.
"You must take enough water," he said. "Take what is recommended by Parks and Wildlife and don't sip it. Don't try and make it last till you get back — you need it. If you keep sipping it will just keep going downhill to the point where you are suffering from dehydration dementia."

This advice is included in Bob's 'Survival Manual' and explained in further detail.
It is sound advice as Bob says that "Several people have been found dead with water still in their water bottles." The Manual is part of his 'Survival Kit' and worthy of carrying and re-reading from time-to-time.

Similarly, Exploroz has an article on Outback Survival to which we can refer people.


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Reply By: ian.g - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 12:00

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 12:00
A big factor that a lot of motor bike riders don't realize is the effect that bike helmets have when being used in rough country. The sheer weight, and the heat factor. Most are black, which increases the heat absorbtion, and don't have adequate ventilation, if you have a bit of speed up it's a far different proposition, but when picking your way through pot holes and stones, the heat builds up and effects how you think and is a real disaster recipe. The extra weight on your neck muscles also makes you very tired and also effects your thinking processes.
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Reply By: 9900Eagle - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 12:22

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 12:22
Don't know the circumstances of the poor bugger that lost his life and he may have been well prepared. I know how quickly heat stress can come on and its not pleasant one little bit. Some will think they have a bug when the headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea set in, but its not to long before the organs start to shutdown.

About 7 years ago I was at Mungerannie,, two german bike riders asked me where to go to cross the Simpson, I think my answer was, your not going anywhere near the Simpson, for one thing you will just get bogged due to rain and secondly your both not equipped or prepared to do it. I then said it might pay to do a lot of research and even more planning.
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Reply By: Member - Stevej54 - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 23:11

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 23:11
G,Day Allan After living, working and travelling in remote parts of the North West and various mine sites in WA and other hot countries I am aware of the perils of the outback which could strike anybody at any time no matter how well prepared they may be. I carry all of the necessary Safety, First aid and recovery Equipment as well as EPIRB, back up GPS, Radio and plenty of spare parts and a more than ample supply of water and food supplies.
The question I asked on the forum related to the Road Conditions at That time of year and had nothing to do with experience of outback travel.
The main safety feature I always have with me is my common sense when the situation could be perilous.

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 00:19

Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 00:19
Steve, that's great that you are experienced and prepared in remote area travel.
As such, I am surprised that you needed to ask about the seasonal condition of the Great Central Road.

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Reply By: Ron N - Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 23:47

Monday, Nov 05, 2018 at 23:47
This poor bugger made two major errors - travelling ALONE! - and not advising people of his movements!

Travelling and working alone in the Outback is exceptionally dangerous. I've done it, and I've know it was a massive risk, because in the era I did it, there was no PLB's, no mobile phones, and simply, very limited communications, full stop.

I always made sure SOMEONE knew what I was doing, and when I was supposed to turn up, or report in.

Even then, there's still a major risk of having an accident and getting trapped or knocked unconscious, rendering yourself unable to even reach water supplies that you've got with you.

Riding a motorbike is much more fraught with risk than driving a vehicle, so doing it alone, you're really asking for trouble.

It's sad when you hear a fit and relatively experienced person dies because they thought they were capable of conquering anything.
You must always have a backup plan, even in relatively populated areas. You don't even need to be in the Outback to run into serious trouble.

I knew an old farmer in the 60's who had a Pilothouse Dodge ute. He was in his early 70's, and the ute was his farm ute and general transport. He lived alone.

He went out one day checking the sheep and got a flat on a front tyre. He jacked the ute up (it had a beam front axle), but ran out of jack extension and had to get a "second bite" with the jack to get the tyre off the ground.
He rounded up a big rock to slide under the beam axle, and intended for that to hold the axle up, while he re-positioned the jack.

The jack slipped right at the moment he was sliding the rock under the axle beam, and the axle fell, and jammed two of his fingers between the rock and the axle.

There he was, trapped, no way out, no-one knew he was there, and it would be many days before anyone might notice he was missing. By then it would probably be too late.

But he was a tough old coot, and he managed to twist around and reach the jack handle - which he then used to chip away at the rock, to free his fingers!
It took him two whole days, and when he finally freed his mangled hand, he still had to change the flat tyre - which he did! - and he then drove himself to hospital!

A lot of people aren't that lucky - I've know other blokes who got trapped and were never found in time, and died a horrible slow death.

In this day and age of good communications, it's sheer foolhardiness not to have emergency communications set up for remote travel - and it's total foolhardiness to adventure into rough and arid conditions in extreme heat, alone, without having "backup" on alert.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: duck - Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 10:29

Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 at 10:29
In 1979 in my 3 speed landcrusier on the CSR came across a split window Kombi with couples from Germany Bogged they thought it was a short cut road to Darwin, got them out & turned them around they told us they would head back but they did not, heard later they got rescued some 20klms further North by some workers looking for minerals they had been there a while, lucky as we only saw a few people & less vehicles for the hole trip, it was remote & felt remote back then, it is still remote but has never felt as remote due to the amount of traffic now
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Reply By: tim_c - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 14:38

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 14:38
It's great that you bring awareness of these things Allan, and how easily someone can get caught out, but just a quick question:
For those who "lack of experience of such travel", how would you suggest such people acquire experience? We all have to start somewhere... and you can read and talk about it all you like, but experience only comes from the doing.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 16:28

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 16:28
A good question Tim, but considering the length of time that you have been contributing to this forum I suspect you already know the answer.

Nevertheless, I’ll respond to your “quick question” with a quick answer…..

Certainly, experience is desirable but prefaced by research….. in books, by internet search, even on Exploroz in the Articles such as Outback Survival, 4WD Driving Skills, Treks, etc. and by placing questions here on the EO Forum. Importantly, by taking note of the information so gained then acquiring experience and extending the adventures.

Anything else? .............

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Follow Up By: ChrisVal7 - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 23:16

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 23:16
An additional factor which helps a newcomer to remote area travel, is to travel with others for at least the first couple of trips.
Ask around about what can mechanically go wrong and how do you fix it.
Make sure you have the tools or equipment to fix what can go wrong.
But there is no substitute for good preparation, such as having enough food or water or fuel. Or having a vehicle in good running order.
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Follow Up By: tim_c - Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 08:50

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 08:50
Thanks Allan, I'm glad you mention research, including placing questions here on the EO forum - I was concerned that the initial post could be seen as a bit of a put-down of "those with less experience" (which was all of us at one point), though I trust this wasn't your intention.

As you quite rightly point out, you should make no apology for warning others of the dangers - I think you would probably agree that if you've made even one person a little more cautious, it will have been worthwhile reminding us all of the dangers with a periodic warning. But on the other hand, if the comments about "those with less experience" are seen as a put-down and have discouraged someone from asking a potentially life-saving question on this forum, that would be sad indeed.

Experienced or not, we all need reminding of the dangers, and those with lots of experience should be careful about looking down on those with less experience - disaster has a way of sneaking up even on the experienced and well-prepared, especially if mixed with a bit of complacency (eg. I didn't need all this spare water last time, so I'll take less this time...).

What am I saying? Thanks for the warning, it's sad the warning cost a few people their lives, but please be careful not to discourage "those with less experience" from asking questions - that could potentially contribute to more tragedies (afterall, asking questions is what the EO Forum is here for, and that's how many of us have learned lots over whatever time we've been involved here).
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 09:56

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 09:56
Tim, you seem to be reading much more into it than what I actually say.

In the opening post I referred to an earlier thread where an enquirer asked about travelling on the Great Central Road in February and the fact that if he needed to ask then it suggested a lack of experience of such travel and the good sense to accept the offered advice. There was no suggestion of a "put-down", merely that he should accept the offered warnings and advice.
I would expect any adult to realise that experience is gained via the path of instruction and advice with progressive involvement.

On the subject of interpretation of written expressions...... you just said "Thanks for the warning, it's sad the warning cost a few people their lives".
That most certainly was not the case and is a poorly crafted expression.

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Follow Up By: tim_c - Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 13:00

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 13:00
I apologise if my comments were unclear. In my closing comment, my reference to the warning having cost a few people their lives was a reference to the opening of this post (entitled "Perils of the Outback") which included 2 links to news reports where people had lost their lives.

It's appropriate for you to draw our attention to these news reports and to use them as a warning to the rest of us, but at the same time it is sad that those people lost their lives. It's sad that those people lost their lives, even though the reports of their deaths can serve as warnings to the rest of us, it has come at a cost. That's all I meant when I said "it sad the warning cost a few people their lives".

I trust this clarifies.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 22:43

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 22:43

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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 18:22

Friday, Nov 09, 2018 at 18:22

A further 4 people have died in the Tanami as result of a broken-down vehicle and probable heat exhaustion.
ABC report here.

In the ABC report, thermal physiologist Matt Brearley said........
"The behaviour of outback travellers would have to change. I think these tragedies should prompt us to consider whether we are doing things appropriately."
Mr Brearley also said there should be more targeted campaigns warning people, especially tourists, about the dangers of heat exhaustion and dehydration in the outback. "If someone is sitting next to their bogged vehicle in Australia for days and days, you tend to not get super hot," (but) "If you are trying to dig that vehicle out, that might be where heat stroke might get you. Not moving around — reducing how much activity you do in extremely hot conditions — is critical."

Now although this event was an indigenous community group, the lessons are there for tourists too. We members of Exploroz need make no apology to warn inexperienced enquirers of the dangers.

Incidentally, the reference I gave in my opening post above re "Steve" was incorrect. It was meant to be for KevC in Thread 137338 who did not seem wholly convinced at all the warnings made to him about high February temperatures on the GCR.

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Saturday, Nov 10, 2018 at 01:25

Saturday, Nov 10, 2018 at 01:25
The single greatest problem as regards the Indigenes is, they do no planning, never have done, and this is a cultural thing with them.

Add in the fact that the younger generations of Aborigines have obviously never been taught any of their so-called "legendary" bush survival skills, and they have major problems.

This group ran out of fuel, showing their poor planning ability. Their vehicle wasn't roadworthy - but we know that a large majority of the Aborigines vehicles aren't road worthy - apart from the ones supplied by Govt Depts.

I don't know what the answer is, when we have Aborigines today, who are unable to survive in the Australian bush.

I guess some Canberra Fat Cat will now commence a drive for the Govt to provide all new 4WD vehicles on a regular basis, to all Outback native communities - because its the only way around their now-common inability to survive in the Outback.

Cheers, Ron.
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