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Can you make your own luck?

Yesterday 46 people had a lucky escape after the tourist boat they were on caught fire and they were forced to abandon the vessel into life-rafts.  The ‘Spirit of 1770’ was en route from Lady Musgrave Island back to the Town of 1770 when an engine alarm went off.   The crew investigated and that is when it slowly became apparent that all was not well in the engine space.  The boat was on fire, and suddenly all 46 souls on board were at serious risk of being seriously injured or dying in the next few hours.


Spirit of 1770 in happier times – Photo:

We say they had a lucky escape.  But did they really?

The Master made sure that everyone was mustered on the bow, whilst the crew investigated and attempted to put out the fire.  When it became apparent that they couldn’t contain the fire, the Master ordered the crew to deploy the life rafts and abandon the vessel.  This was done in an orderly manner, once the rafts were deployed into the water.

As passenger Karl Burton described, many people could not swim.  They had to jump from the vessel into the water and then climb into the raft.  Many people who were in the water realised that it is very difficult to climb into an inflatable life raft from the water.  The crew took charge, but it was a team effort to get everyone on board the life rafts.

With 46 people now cold and wet inside two life rafts, their situation was still very marginal.  Darkness was approaching, and whilst search and rescue authorities were notified and volunteer rescue boats were on their way, there are not many volunteer rescue boats in Australia capable of embarking 46 survivors.  It was a race against time to get enough boats on scene to rescue everyone.

The survivors were in the life rafts for a couple of hours before help was on scene.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting in a cold wet rubber life raft for an indeterminate period.  Many people were sea sick, and this would have added to the misery in the raft.  But help did come, from volunteer rescue boats, water police and good samaritans.

The Spirit of 1770 well alight. Photo:

Thankfully everyone was eventually brought ashore by a flotilla of rescue craft.  Queensland Ambulance set up a triage reception centre at Town of 1770, and 19 people were treated for minor conditions including dehydration and exposure.  The community of 1770 also rallied, with many businesses staying open late to provide something to eat and a warm blanket to the survivors.

It could have been a lot worse, but the Master made a decisive decision early on to abandon the vessel.  This allowed the passengers to evacuate to life-rafts in an orderly and controlled manner.  The crew did an excellent job in ensuring all passengers were accounted for at all times.  The Water Police and Volunteer Marine Rescue responded promptly and ensured that the rescue was coordinated and controlled.  The Queensland Ambulance provided facilities to receive the survivors and treat any injuries.  It was a team effort all around.  They made their own luck.

More can be found at the following links:


What if you just get sick when hiking?

Emergency EPIRBs or beacons are not just for when you’re injured.

Last Sunday, the Bundaberg RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter recovered two men from Fraser Island.  The pair were aged 25 and 26 and were experienced hikers.  They hadn’t  twisted an ankle or been bitten by a snake.  But they needed help, and their distress beacon was the quickest way to get the help they needed.

One of the hikers fell ill during their hike.  The pair rested overnight to see if he improved.  Unfortunately his condition worsened overnight, and they made the agonising decision to turn on their beacon.

The beacon was detected by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority shortly before lunch on Sunday.  The helicopter responded and located the hikers in dense bush-land about 10 kilometres north of Lake Wabby.  A paramedic and air crewman was winched down to the pair.  They then extracted the ill hiker and transferred him to Hervey Bay Hospital for treatment.

It was a good outcome.  They were well prepared for their hike, but were unable to continue.  They made the right decision.

RACQ CareFlight Rescue Helicopter –

For more information on which beacon is best for you, check out Save Our Selves – A guide for getting help in remote areas


Read the article here:

Could this be the best satellite phone?

Think satellite phones are ugly bricks that can only work outdoors… think again.  Pivotel has just released new pricing on their Thuraya SatSleeve which allows seamless interface with your smart phone.  The SatSleeve now can be purchased with a universal adaptor, allowing it to interface with most smartphones.

The SatSleeve has many advantages over regular satellite phones.  Not only can you make calls almost anywhere, you are able to send and receive emails and use your apps, wherever you are. When you’re in regular mobile phone signal, your phone reverts to a regular mobile phone.

One option even allows you to use you to set up a SatSleeve Hotspot outside, whilst you use your smartphone inside.  This frees you up from having to be outside to make a satellite phone call!

Pivotel supply these products to the Australian market. This means you can dial regular Australian numbers from your phone, including the emergency 000 number.  As a bonus, people calling you pay just regular mobile phone rates.

The cost of these phones is around $999 including GST.  You will require a subscription plan, and these range upwards from $15 per month.

To find out if this is the right product for you, check out Save Our Selves – A guide to getting help in remote areas.

If you want to find out more about the SatSleeve or the other satellite phones provided by Pivotel, check out:


Whose fault is it if you get lost when bushwalking?

With modern satellite guidance, enabling us to pinpoint our position on the earth to within metres, people are still getting lost on regular bushwalks nearly every day.

Many bushwalks are well signposted, but occasionally signs can be damaged or missing.  In less travelled areas, wallaby or kangaroo tracks can be more frequented than the path.  These wildlife tracks make it hard to see the actual trail, meaning it is easy to stray from the marked trail without even realising it.

And occasionally you don’t realise you are on the wrong track for quite some time.

 For most people, it is relatively straightforward to backtrack and start again, but in unfamiliar country, suddenly realising you are not where you expect can be extremely unnerving.

And if you lose too much time or become lost, your short walk can become a battle for life and death.

A couple of simple precautions can really make a difference – especially for day walks.  You should consider carrying a day pack with the following items in it:

  • a first aid kit,  especially a compression bandage for snake bites
  • a space blanket for emergency shelter
  • a whistle for attracting attention – it is less tiring to blow than yell and the sound travels further
  • a map of the area – or take a photo of the trail map on your fully charged phone
  • some extra water / water purification tablets
  • a distress alerting device such as a PLB (personal locator beacon).

If you’re planning more remote or less travelled tracks, then in addition to the above, Sergent Steane of the Tasmanian Police recently advised:

“If you’re going to those more minor routes, do your homework, make sure you’re experienced for it, get your maps.  Certainly make sure you’re fit enough, do some warm-up walks.”

Hiking is fun, and a wonderful way to see some fantastic parts of Australia, hidden from those who demand road access and a kiosk/cafe in the car-park.  Just make sure you take some simple precautions to have a safe and enjoyable time in the great outdoors.

For more information on what distress alerting device would suit your needs, download Save Our Selves – a guide for getting help in remote areas.


Sometimes you run out of luck – or do you?

Last week the ABC reported on the survival of a man who had walked for 20 kilometres to get help.  On first glance, it would appear pilot Peter Lacy had run out of luck.

  • The engine of his aircraft started spewing smoke into the cabin
  • There was no clear country to make a forced landing
  • A wing clipped a tree on the way down, causing the aircraft to skid onto its side
  • Aviation fuel started pouring on the pilot who evacuated quickly fearing fire
  • The aircraft’s 406 distress beacon was damaged in the landing, and despite hours of desperate attempts to repair it, it was unable to be fixed.

On closer examination, a bit of luck was on Mr Lacy’s side.  He was mostly uninjured in the accident, and with a clear head, he made some good decisions.

Mr Lacy’s first priority was to arrange his rescue; however, his 406 distress beacon was destroyed beyond repair in the accident.  Mr Lacy stated

“I had to walk because nobody knew where I was, so I walked for 25 kilometres into where I knew some hills were.  Then I was able to ring for help from there.”

The normal advice is to stay with the downed aircraft (or broken down vehicle) until you are rescued.  If Mr Lacy had lodged a flight note, the alarm would have been raised when he failed to arrive at his destination.  The Australian Maritime Safety Authority would have then promptly coordinated the search for the missing aircraft.

As it was, Mr Lacy had to take matters into his own hands.  Thankfully he had good knowledge of the landscape and was confident in the bush.  Despite the threat of circling dingoes, Mr Lacy was able to walk to higher ground where his mobile phone gained signal.  Mr Lacy established contact with WA Police, who initiated search action. He was eventually rescued almost 24 hours after the forced landing.

Perhaps next time Mr Lacy will lodge a flight note.  This will mean that even if he is unable to activate his beacon, proper and effective search action will commence within minutes of his nominated arrival time, if he fails to arrive.  It is an important principle anyone who travels in remote areas should consider.

What is your remote communication plan?  What is your redundancy if your 406 beacon fails to operate?  If you are planning on touring in remote areas, you should join the many other travellers who have read: Save Our Selves – a guide for getting help in remote areas.

ABC Online


How long do you wait before turning on your beacon?

Whilst the recent snow falls in Tasmania were spectacularly beautiful, for one hiker on the Overland Track, the snow proved to be an impassable barrier.  Despite repeated attempts over four days, the 44 year old Hobart man was unable to leave Kia Ora Hut due to deep snow drifts.

The man had rationed his food supply, and was uninjured.  He had appropriate clothing for the weather, and was even carrying snow shoes.  Distress Beacons are to be used in life and death situations.  Surely the hiker should have waited a few more days for the snow to melt before continuing on his journey.

So why did Police praise the man for doing the right thing and turning on his distress beacon?

The man was due to complete his trek, and he knew that if he failed to arrive, a search would be organised for him over the entire length of the track.  By turning on his beacon, he knew that rescuers would be able to proceed directly to his location, effectively taking the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue’.

It was the right thing to do.

More information on which distress beacon you need can be found in Save Our Selves – a guide to getting help in remote areas

The full story including a video of the rescue can be found here:

Letting go – how do you keep them safe?

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.

Story:  Dutch Tourist’s Body found in the Outback