Australian Dad Survives the Bush – Why I say you should always be prepared

by Woodsbum

I stumbled across an article that discusses how a father and his two young sons survived 10 days in the Australian Outback. Apparently he was taking back roads as a scenic route with his sons and they somehow missed a turn and got stuck. They then spent 10 days surviving until someone came by and saved them.

Here is the article:

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.

Their ordeal began Dec. 11 when dad Steven Van Lonkhuyzen took a wrong turn during a family road trip and then got his four-wheel-drive vehicle bogged in mud. The family was rescued Sunday after farmer Tom Wagner went searching and found them in the remote Expedition National Park.

“They were pretty hungry by the time I got to them, and pretty happy to see me,” Wagner said.

He said the younger boy, Timothy, kept asking him if he had any eggs, while the older one, Ethan, appeared dehydrated. He said the father had given the limited food he had to his sons, who themselves had gone with little or nothing to eat for a week.

“Luckily it rained,” he said. “Otherwise they would have perished.”

Queensland Police Acting Superintendent Mick Bianchi says Van Lonkhuyzen had planned to drive from his home in Brisbane to Cairns using an inland route.

“Quite simply, he took a wrong turn,” Bianchi said.

He said the boys were getting their strength back after their ordeal, during which temperatures rose to about 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). The boys were both listed as being in a stable condition at the Taroom Hospital.

Bianchi said the family had limited provisions but luckily it was stormy at times and they were able to collect rainwater in a plastic container. He said the father had tried to attract attention by laying out high-visibility items around his vehicle and lighting fires. He said Van Lonkhuyzen made the right choice by staying with his vehicle.

“They were very trying conditions, and it would have tested the family’s relationship,” Bianchi said.

He said the father attempted to establish routines with his children and keep them occupied.

He said there was little or no cellphone reception in the park and so the trio hadn’t been able to contact anybody. Bianchi said the boys’ mother had raised the alarm when the trio didn’t arrive at a friend’s home in Cairns.

He said the national park is not usually visited at this time of year because of the extreme weather conditions.

One of the first things I would like to point out is that the father put his sons first and gave them what food that they had brought with them. This was very noble and I am always happy to see parents who behave in such a selfless fashion. Kudos to this guy for his sacrifice and how much he loves his kids, especially since this didn’t kill him and leave his sons to fend for themselves. In the bush water is life, but calories are king. If you intake food without enough water you will not be able to digest the calories. If you don’t have enough calories for your body to function, you might not be able to do the work required to gather and purify the water needed to survive. It is a slippery slope. You have to eat enough to be able to do the work needed to keep alive so giving all your calories to someone else might have actually killed them all…..

Second thing I would like to point out is that you should ALWAYS have several days of rations on you when you travel. I don’t care if you are going via Interstate or down the Pacific Coast Trail. You should always have several days of food with you. Foraging/hunting can and will extend those meals if you get stuck, but having those calories available to give you the energy to: build shelters, gather firewood, create some sort of signaling system for rescue, finding and purifying water, etc. If you don’t have the energy to do those things, you may not pull through.

Last thing I will mention is the fact that they did not have enough water with them. If it had not rained, they might not have survived. Depending upon the weather or ground water to keep you hydrated is not a good idea unless you live some place like Western Washington where even the slugs wear rain coats. Most places do not have enough fresh water that you can purify within 1 mile of every place you could ever imagine like Western Washington does. This being said, also keep a way to purify or distill your water. If you live near the ocean distilling sea water will provide you will drinkable water so learn how and bring the supplies. If you live other places you should bring a water filtration system as a way to make any water you find drinkable.

These things are really second nature to those of us who spend as much time in the woods as we can. Knowing how to live in the woods versus surviving an outdoors mishap is really the difference between bushcrafting and being a survivalist. Like Mors Kochanski says, “The more you know, the less you carry.” Learn as much as possible and carry the right equipment.

Again, I am really glad that they made it through and did so well. It really is awesome and I bet the kids learned a TON due to this extended camping trip.

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