Over the weekend of May 8 - 10 most of Telfer's exploration team (apart from a couple left behind to man the fort), participated in a Basic Outback Survival Course conducted by world-renowned expert Bob Cooper.
We had no idea what we were in for;
A few hardcore people were hoping to really rough it, and to survive on witchdey grubs all weekend. Egos combined with lack of information about how it would go, fuelled imaginations for weeks leading up to the event.
They were, however, highly disappointed when they saw the amount of food, water and camping gear that was packed for the trip.
The rest of us were thanking God for Newcrest's duty of care; it was the basic survival course after all, learning the valuable skills to be able to fend for ourselves and stay alive if needed. We spent the first Friday in the classroom on site learning about toxic plants and basic navigation skills. We also talked about our mind sets: how we react as humans; and how we actually control the situation, instead of letting it control us.
We talked about instances where people had been lost and found, or lost and, unfortunately passed away.
By analysing what they did right, and where they went wrong, we began to see how, with a small amount of knowledge and confidence, the result could have been a much better outcome.
Our first assignment for that night was to find a suitable stick to make into a bow to start a wood-on-wood fire. This was just the beginning...
We departed bright and early on Saturday, all 10 of us, including Bob, with our gear, excited and maybe a little apprehensive about what lay ahead.
We looked at some examples of edible and toxic plants, as well as some sacred Aboriginal sites close to Telfer - Christmas Pool and Trottman's Cave - we stopped for a rest in a creek bed and were given our survival kits: a tiny box that contained everything we would ever need if we were ever stuck.
Who would have thought a personal survival kit couls all fit in a 500ml plastic container?
It appears you don't have to go without fishhooks, wire, tea bags, a mini compass, condis crystals, sugar tablets, bandages, multitools, a torch, mirror, plastic bags (that have several uses), pen and paper, a flint and several other valuable items.
Continuing on, we arrived at Duck Creek. Unfortunately none of us had brought our togs. After lunch, we split into teams and learnt the best ways to make water from the available resources. We employed plastic bags hung round tree branches to collect dew, a solar box and the run off from the vehicle's air conditioner.
Then we talked about signals - for night and day, and proceeded to build a signal fire, comprising a tripod of dried branches to light when it got dark.
As it turned out the winning bonfire started as the most lopsided looking ensemble, but it lasted the longest once lit, theoretically improving our chances being spotted and rescued by an aircraft overhead.
The sun went down and a full moon came up. After setting up camp and having prepared our underground oven for dinner (similar to a hungi) we did some night time navigation exercises using the stars to find south and our new best friends - some sticks collected earlier that day as a compass. If anyone was observing and didn't know any better, I'm sure we would have looked like some wierd cult, each of us down on one knee pointing sticks at the moonlit sky.
After a long and productive day, we finally sat round the campfire, memmerised by the flames and chatted.
It was here that some interesting stories were shared, and a few interesting facts revealed: beware, you could be working with a recovering pyromaniac.
Slowly, people said their goodnights and retired to their swags and into a well desrved sleep, only to be woken by one enthusiastic individual at 6am, who had decided to make the scheduled 'call-to-site' in the middle of the 'dom'.
We then set about organising breakfast , packing up camp and then moved straight into some daylight navigation exercises, making sure to count our paces and keep checking in with the sun to ensure we were on track.
The last exercise of the day was an interesting one to say the least. Tempers frayed and there were even a few tantrums, as we all made a go of making fire using our hand crafted bows, base plates and drills.
The saying patience is a virtue rang true, as, one by one, we got there in the end and managed to create enough 'punk' to turn into embers and nurture into a flame.
All in all it was a great team building experience, one I'm sure no-one will forget in a hurry.
Our big thanks go to Bob for all his knowledge, skill and direction. We learned heaps, and now look forward to the advanced course.