SYDNEY – “A 5-year-old boy and his 7-year-old brother were recovering in a hospital Monday after surviving with their father for 10 days in the Australian wilderness with little food and in weather conditions that ranged from stormy to scorching (Associated Press, 2014)”.
According to the report, the trio were on a family road trip when the father took a wrong turn and their vehicle ended up mired in mud. Cell phone service was not available so the father could not call for help. Essentially all they had in the vehicle was some snacks.
They all stayed with the vehicle, which is what likely saved their lives. The father rationed what little food provisions there were between his two sons.
The father stated he was glad it rained because it provided them with some drinking water. However, the fact that the vehicle became bogged down in the mud meant there was ground water, if not surface water that could have been used if there were a means of filtering and purifying the water.
What If This Had Been You
First, know the route; guess work can leave you stranded. Know what to expect, along the route. If traveling a significant distance it is important to know what the weather conditions will likely be.
It can be sunny and warm when you leave but just a few miles up the road conditions can change. Get the weather forecast for the areas you expect to be traveling through, so you can have clothing packed that is suitable for the forecasted conditions.
Do not trust your onboard navigational equipment. New construction occurs all the time and your system unless updated almost daily may not reflect changes to certain routes. Have maps that are current that reflect the routes you expect to travel. Shortcuts are rarely what they seem, and have led many a traveler down the wrong path.
The father was able to start signal fires and he stated that he placed visual signs around the vehicle that apparently could be seen from the air, this was of course a sensible move.
The father was able to start a fire so he could have purified water if he had a container. The children are being treated for dehydration, so obviously the father did not have the means to purify water or did not realize he could.
Mud means water and it may have only been a few inches below the surface and ground water typically if it seeps in from the bottom of the hole dug does not need purification, but filtering would help remove the sediment.
They had fire, water and shelter, but apparently, the father did not utilize the fire or the available water sources to their full potential. Again, the fact they stayed with the vehicle may have saved their lives.
You probably by now already know what to carry in your vehicle, for emergencies even if the trip is a short one around town, but reminders never hurt.
What to Pack
First, become familiar with the environment you will be traveling in if it is a trip out of town. Know the forecasted weather conditions and terrain.
- Pack clothing appropriate for the weather along the route
- Compass and maps of the routes and surrounding country
- Food for at least 72 hours, but more is better, because ten days is a long time without food but would you rather be hungry for 10 days or only for seven days, so any food packed is better than no food packed
- Water for 72 hours and again more is better depending on space
- Emergency shelters such as tarps and ponchos, if in an accident you may not be able to use your vehicle for sheltering in
- Water purification tablets
- Blankets and/or sleeping bags
- Mylar emergency blankets
- Multi tool
- Small camp ax, fixed bladed knife and/or machete but in some areas of the world this may not be allowed, so check first
- Cell phone and charger with extra battery
- Signal flags, brightly colored cloth, or colored garbage bags for signaling rescue personnel
- Fire starting materials
- Jumper cables
- Tire chains, sand or kitty litter if you expect snow all are used for traction
- Various tools for minor vehicle repairs, including duct tape
- Engine coolant/anti-freeze and motor oil
- Collapsible shovel, the father could have essentially dug an open well for drinking water because it was obvious there was ground water close to the surface
- Rain gear
- Metal container for food prep and for boiling water for purification, stainless steel canteens and/or metal nesting cups are ideal for this
- Work gloves
- First aid kit and include lip balm, sunscreen and insect repellent,
- Sunglasses, bandanas and hats
- Flashlights and keep in mind flashlights can be used for signaling at night so make sure you have an ample supply of batteries, do not depend on lights that plug into 12-Volt receptacles because the vehicle’s battery may be dead
The list of course is not comprehensive, it must be adapted depending on the weather, and the places you plan to travel in. If traveling across an arid region then add more water and engine coolant for example.