Gold has lured many men to their deaths. The fever, gold fever, has been known to take possession of a soul and drive men in their relentless quest for the precious metal. In places such as Arltunga in the Northern Territory, or the Goldfields region of Western Australia, many miners died from thirst little more than one hundred years ago.
Whilst the gold rush has passed, many people still venture into these areas to try their hand at prospecting, or simply touring.
Sadly, somewhere between 2001 and 2003, another man died in the desert.
Tom van Boheeman was a Dutch tourist who came to Australia in 2001 to start a new life. His last contact with his parents was from Sydney. He never spoke to them again, and was reported missing to police.
His skeleton was found around 10 years later, but it took police another three years to identify him. His body was lying in a sleeping bag, the arms folded. The cause of death will forever by a mystery.
What really upset me, was that Mr van Boheeman was an insulin dependent diabetic. As the parent of a diabetic son, his lonely death struck a chord.
I fear the day my young son will grow into a man and will want to leave home. It is something he should do, I know it. But it will be with risks, as he tries to manage his condition without his parental safety net. I hope that we can provide him with enough skills to manage his condition safely, without harm to himself or others.
This then brings me to the crux of this article? Could Mr van Boheeman’s death have been prevented?
In 2001, personal locator beacons (PLB’s) were not commonly carried by bushwalkers or tourists. The 406MHz beacons were extremely expensive, and were not available in the small size available today. Mobile phones were no longer bricks, but they were expensive and range was limited. To expect everyone travelling in remote areas to be carrying a beacon in those days is unrealistic.
In 2015 however it is a different story. There are many products on the market that allow bushwalkers, or tourists a global safety net, beyond the range of the mobile phone tower. For under $200, products exist which allow you to share your adventures with friends on a google map page, let friends and family know where you’re camped for the night, or even call in an evacuation.
This technology means that we can travel this beautiful country of ours confident that we can get help if we need it. Unfortunately all this technology came too late for Mr van Boheeman.
What this technology means is that I will be much happier letting my son explore this world on his own, knowing he will have a network of satellites watching over him instead of his parents. It is a heartening thought.
To find out what device would work best for you, or what you need for your remote communication plan, then please read: Save Our Selves, a guide for getting help in remote areas.