Monday 26 September 2016

Tourist, 63, saved from Australian bush after scrawling message in sand

Published 23/08/2015 | 16:43

A British tourist lost in the Australian bush was saved after he scrawled a plea for help in the sand
A British tourist lost in the Australian bush was saved after he scrawled a plea for help in the sand

A British tourist who became hopelessly lost in the Australian bush was saved after he scrawled a desperate plea for help in the sand.

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Geoff Keys, 63, of Dartford, Kent, became lost in the Jardine National Park in north Queensland after making "one of the stupidest decisions ever" to try to take a "short cut" through the bush back to his camp.

He tried to retrace his steps but Mr Keys, who had left for a pleasant trip along Canal Creek to Eliot Falls wearing a hat, swimming trunks, shorts and a t-shirt and in his bare feet, ended up more than 12 km from camp.

After a long swim from his camp and with no sign of Eliot Falls in sight, Mr Keys admits that his big mistake was in trying to find a new route back.

Recalling his traumatic adventure in a blog, Mr Keys said: "And here is where I made one of the stupidest decisions ever. Instead of turning round and swimming back upstream I decided to take to the bush and cut across to the track. It was nearly dark. I had no shoes. What was I thinking of?

"Well, I was convinced the track was nearby and walking back would have been easier than swimming. So I took a bearing off the setting sun and the rising moon and headed north, back the way I'd come."

He was confident that this would point him in the direction to walk back to camp. He was wrong.

He found another stream and was wrong again in believing it was lead him back to camp.

He said: "It took me about two hours to realise it wasn't the same creek. I kept swimming - it seemed the sensible thing to do."

By 2am he sat waiting for dawn to come. His friends had reported him missing and the distant sound of helicopters overheard was a happy sign that he could be rescued.

Mr Keys wrote an SOS message - reading HELP 2807 along with an arrow pointing downstream towards his location in the sand in the hope that a helicopter might spot it.

He said: "It seemed a good idea to help myself as much as possible so I got out of the water, found a stick and wrote a message in the sand, just in case the helicopter came down that way.

"HELP. 2807. Help, today's date and my direction of travel. I thought this would be enough to get any helicopter that saw it looking in the right place."

He became increasingly tired as he looked for the path back. He tried to work his way through the undergrowth and waded his way downstream as his increasingly battered feet started to become more uncomfortable. Also, he did not have any food with him.

It was as he rested in the sun after an hour-long swim that he heard a helicopter coming down the river. He successfully caught its attention by waving his hat and jumping "up and down like a lunatic".

He was eventually winched to safety in another bigger helicopter which was called out to deal with the rough terrain.

Mr Keys, who was then checked over in hospital told the Mirror: "I feel stupid but lucky. I'm sorry about the worry caused to friends and family."

Mr Keys, who is separated with three grown-up children, now plans to travel to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and America.

Press Association

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