A BRITISH teenager lost in the Australian outback for three days slaked his thirst by drinking contact-lens fluid and could only ask rescuers "Where am I?" when they found him gaunt and dazed.
Sam Woodhead (18), from Richmond upon Thames near London, was spotted from the air about six miles from a remote station in Queensland where he has been living for 10 days during his gap year.
He had lost 15kg in the three days and was sunburnt, weak and severely dehydrated, but otherwise unharmed.
His cousin, Rob Derry, who had flown from Hong Kong to join the search, was one of the first people to see Mr Woodhead.
"He was pretty gaunt," Mr Derry said.
"I just gave him a big hug. There were a few smiles. He was relieved. I don't know what was going through his mind. I haven't spoken to him about the ordeal. He's got to take his time."
Mark Tysoe, a volunteer rescuer, said the teenager could barely speak at first and appeared confused and disoriented.
"He just asked where he was," Mr Tysoe said. "He was sunburnt and had cracked lips and could only just speak."
Mr Woodhead, who went to Brighton College, has been living at Upshot Station, an isolated farming property in a sparsely populated region renowned for its searing heat and harsh terrain.
Apparently, he set off for a run on Tuesday and got lost, drinking his one litre of water within the first hour. He tried to backtrack but became more lost.
William Morris, a commander of the local emergency services, said Mr Woodhead, a health fanatic, lost 33lb during his three days in the bush in temperatures that reached close to 40C, and may have survived because of his fitness.
"He went out with only one litre of water and he lapped that up in an hour. Then the only way he survived was drinking saline solution for his contact lenses," he said.
Mr Woodhead's disappearance prompted a frantic search spanning 135,000 acres as neighbours, volunteers, farmers, police and emergency services set out on horses, quad-bikes, motorbikes, four-wheel-drives, light aircraft and helicopters. The rescuers found tracks on Wednesday near a fence line about five miles from the homestead, but the trail went cold.
"Usually, by the third day, you're lucky if you find someone alive," Mr Morris said. "All the creeks are dry at the moment. That country out there is very unforgiving. There are snakes and wild pigs and dingoes. If you are weak and lying down, they will get you.' ''
A helicopter crew spotted Mr Woodhead's backpack and then spotted him nearby. He was winched on board and flown to the hospital in the nearest town of Longreach, about 400 miles from the coast of central Queensland. (© Daily Telegraph, London)