Rescue stories

Rescue from Tasmanian South West

Mount Picton is just on the edge of the Tasmanian South West Wilderness area and is one of the highest peaks in the area. It was to be a three day trip, climbing to the campsite which is a couple of hundred meters below the summit, with a short climb to the top on day two. The weather forecast was brilliant – warm and clear.

The climb to the campsite should have taken us about 5 hours. A steady ascent gaining about 750 meters in elevation. We were doing fine and only about 20 minutes from the campsite I became short of breath and within a few minutes lost all strength and became extremely weak. I sat down to rest and over the next hour instead of feeling better I gradually deteriorated. No chest pain, but all strength gone and increasing breathlessness. This was accompanied by vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness and blurred vision. In the end I was unable to stand up. I was just beginning to wonder if I was dying when I decided to activate the PLB1. It was getting late in the day and anybody coming to help on foot would have needed nearly a whole day to get to us. We were just above a boulder field at about 1100 meters.

After 1 hour 45 minutes the helicopter arrived. The weather was still and clear but the terrain was rough so they could not land close by. They hovered close enough to the ground so that a paramedic and a police officer could jump out to help me. I had recovered enough to climb in as the helicopter hovered about half a meter above a large flat rock. We were away in minutes.

It turned out I needed a stent in one of the arteries supplying the blood to the heart muscle. Something I was completely unaware of.

I am extremely grateful for the way the PLB1 worked and we will always be sure to carry one in the future.

I was also extremely impressed by the way the Westpac Rescue Crew helped us. They were very professional and I can’t praise them enough.

Peru Rescue

I was walking the Choquequirao walk in Peru. A 9 day walk that visits the Inka site of Choquequirao and ends in visiting Macchu Picchu.  The walk takes approximately 9 days.

On the 4th day everything was going according to plan. I was walking with a friend and we were self sufficient. We decided to venture off the main path to visit 2 other Inca ruin sites. This path followed the ridge line to a mountain with a crest at approx. 3850m. We saw the ruins and decided that we would cut a diagonal track to pick up the main path and save backtracking.

The terrain became almost impossible. This is the Andes. The mountains are almost vertical. It was like once we stepped into the valley there was no turning back and no way out.
I had a map and a GPS and mobile phone but of course no coverage. We spent 3 days trying to walk out. The 3rd day we came almost to the top of the ridge line to find a sheer cliff face. Here at least I had clear sky and a small almost horizontal platform that I manage to sort of pitch the tent for some cover.

I set the PLB up in an open site with clear sky above extended the antenna and initialized it. The white LED was flashing and also there was a red and a green LED flashing.

We had ample food but was down to a cup of water remaining. I set up the ground sheet to catch water from the passing light showers. 29 hours later a welcome head popped out of the jungle to rescue us. No helicopters, they don’t have any. The rescue squad used whistles, gun shots and radios to guide us down off the mountain. Almost 3 hours.

Regards Gary Bennett

Rescue from Budawang National Park NSW

May 2017

0430 Wednesday morning. The sound of thunder echoed up the valleys of the Buddawangs northern end. Two young men woke up and hastily packed their gear and readied themselves for a hard day’s walk. The sun came up, the tent was quickly stowed and an interminable slog began.

We had lost the trail in the thick overgrowth of the rain forest south of Watson’s Pass on the way to Hollands Gorge, resorting to map-and-compass navigation we were confident of where we were, knew exactly where we needed to be but were having difficulty finding a navigable route. Taking our path slowly and steadily we descended small creeks until we reached the junction between Camp Rock Creek and Holland’s Creek and the small campsite there that had been our intended destination the night before. The sight of the fire-pit and rocks piled by previous travelers as stools heralded our return to the trail and buoyed our spirits significantly. The rain lifted in perfect synchrony with our moods and morale was on the rise. We set off up the Beautiful Hollands Creek with renewed enthusiasm stopping briefly at a sandy bend to marvel at the tea coloured water and refill our canteens with the same.

While navigating one of the tiny tributaries which intersected our path, the boulder upon which I had been standing slipped in the sodden earth and slid out from underneath me. The fall was inevitable, unavoidable. There was no time to correct or move to a better position. I went down. Hard. The nightmare of a serious fracture was immediately dispelled but the ankle was not 100%. I deployed the trusty first aid kit and anti-inflammatories, strapped on my boot and made slow but steady progress. I leaned heavily on my trusted hiking stick and my companion’s pathfinding skill that day. Feeling certain that we could, we pressed on. Albeit at a slower pace and knowing that today’s journey would take us up a ridge, a far superior extraction point if nothing else.
When I say we ascended the ridge above Angels Creek, I mean we elevated ourselves. almost 500m up in just over 1km along in around 2 and a half hours was a proud moment. This brought us to a camping cave, a campfire and a critical point.

We set about drying the gear which had remained soaked through our scrambling through the dense (and now wet) undergrowth beside the creeks and got some rest. The night was long and cool, my ankle throbbing through the night reminding me of the choice we would need top make come sun up.
Dawn broke, we packed up and went to hit the track but on the uneven terrain my step was not as steady as it had been yesterday and my pace was not good enough to get us through the entrance to Monolith Valley. I threw away my pride and admitted defeat, it was time to call for help.

We ascended to the cliff immediately above our previous nights accommodations and activated the tiny yellow box. Remembering all the little instructions about finding clear sky, as high as possible. All those little tips that I promised myself I wouldn’t need to know but should learn anyway. We sat, waiting for almost 2 hours, jumping at every jetliner overhead, eager to hear any aircraft sound, hoping it was for us.

As we sat I worried I had wasted time and resources searching for us when we could have soldiered on. I worried we had embarrassed ourselves like those people who set out for a week camping with a woolen blanket and a sack of spuds. I was wrong.

The rescue helicopter found us, the paramedic dropped down, talked us through the procedure and winched us to safety and once we had landed the crew talked to us excitedly about their bushwalking experiences in nearby areas. Finally they thanked us for doing what we had done in setting off the beacon before my condition had deteriorated further, and for making this decision now and not at 5:30 at night at the bottom of a gully. Loved ones were phoned, tensions were eased, we were home safe and sound.

I’ve had some time to reflect upon the whole event and I think the key lesson is simple.

Before you set out, when you are calm and rational, set out clear rules for yourself about what conditions will trigger you to set off the beacon and trust in this plan. Understand your first aid kit, understand yourself and keep calm. There’s always time for a little panic in your sleeping bag when your safely tucked in for the night, but stay calm under pressure and you’re already halfway there.


Rescued from South West Tasmania

18 January, 2016. A few weeks ago I had occasion to activate an emergency beacon during a traverse (my fourth) of the Western Arthur Range in South West Tasmania. I had almost reached the lower ground while descending to Lake Oberon. The fall that occurred damaged a ligament in my knee, for which I am still receiving treatment. Activating an emergency beacon is a last resort proposition. This decision is made on the best judgement about the injury that can be made at the time, the nature of the terrain one is walking through, the companions one has on the walk and the possibility of other alternatives to aerial evacuation. In this particular instance, I thought that the injury had compromised the structural integrity of my knee. It seemed to me from other injuries I had sustained over the years that there was tendon, or ligament involvement.

As the area we were in meant that the next day between Lake Oberon and the High Moor was a long one over difficult terrain, I was likely going to quickly exacerbate the injury on steep ascents and descents. As the day was long and arduous, pack shuffling by my companions was out of the question, as we would run out of daylight and there was no opportunity to camp prior to the High Moor and there was no guarantee that my leg would be any better without the weight of the pack. As well as myself, the safety of my companions was thus a prominent consideration. The other prominent consideration was the one of evacuation, which would have been very difficult for the helicopter to effect in most areas between Lake Oberon and the High Moor. In sum, the decision to activate the beacon was eminently sensible one, both at the time and in retrospect. I am very pleased that we had one with us.

Mel Macarthur (Rev.Dr). Wentworth Falls. NSW. Australia

Motorbike riders rescued from Australian desert

Three motorbike riders were rescued from a remote area of Australia’s Simpson Desert after alerting rescue services using their Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1.

Kevin Chapman, along with two friends, was at the end of the first day of a long-planned crossing of the Simpson Desert, riding through great scenery and terrain, when disaster struck after he went over the bars and hurt his back. After attempting to continue, he eventually found it impossible to carry on due to the pain, which left the three motor cyclists stranded in the middle of the desert in temperatures of about 40 degrees.

After activating their rescueME PLB1 in the afternoon, it was a great relief to see a plane circling overhead at about midnight. As they later discovered, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had deployed a Dornier search and rescue aircraft to the location of the distress beacon, 214km west of Birdsville. Rescue crews then located the three men at first light the following day and Kevin was airlifted to the Birdsville clinic for treatment.

“Thank goodness we had the rescueME PLB1,” said Kevin Chapman. “Without it things could have been a lot different. I would never undertake a trip like this without one.

“We set the PLB off and waited for help, hoping it had worked. Meanwhile back at home the search and rescue team had been in touch with our families who later said that their communication and support was incredible. The distress signal fired from the device prompted immediate action from Search and Rescue and they were able to pin point our exact location. “We were relieved to see the plane arrive. It was such a relief to know that people were aware of our trouble and help was probably on the way. Around 7am the following morning police and ambulance 4WD vehicles arrived after travelling 9 hours through the night to reach us. The nurse decided due to my injury that a helicopter was the best way to transport me to Birdsville clinic for treatment and within the hour I was airlifted out of there. The rescue team was amazing; it took them a further 12 hours in extremely hot conditions to get back to Birdsville, such a dedicated effort that I will be forever thankful for.”

An AMSA spokesperson added: “The aircraft is drop-capable so they can open up the back and drop survival equipment out. They dropped communications equipment (to the motorcyclists). It’s good that they had a personal locator beacon to alert AMSA to the fact that they were in trouble. It’s pretty remote out there.”

Teen bush-walker rescued after becoming lost in freezing conditions.

An 18-year-old bush-walker was rescued from the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia after activating his rescueME PLB1. The teenager became disorientated while walking in wild terrain near Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges National Park, with no food or water with him.

Following the distress call, a police officer was winched into the area, but both men were forced to spend Saturday night in freezing conditions after bad weather had prevented crews from retrieving them.

A break in the weather on Sunday night allowed the officer to be lifted out while another replaced him, before the teenager and the second officer were finally winched to safety. An earlier attempt to winch the teenager into a rescue helicopter on Saturday night was aborted amid poor weather conditions. About 12 volunteers from the State Emergency Service (SES) also attempted to walk to the pair.

Both men were cold, but otherwise unharmed, and were released after a brief medical assessment at the Albany Health Campus.

The teenager said: “The device worked perfectly, with the response time less than 5 minutes, which is when they first tried to contact me on my telephone, as I later found out. The first sight of the helicopter was in 2 to 3 hours after they travelled approximately 400km.”

“The operation was in Western Australia, at a height of 1000 meters in the Stirling Range, weather modelling predicted -5 to -10C minimum temp with wind gusts of 200kph.”