A SURVIVAL kit small enough to fit in a pocket was left sitting at home when Mauritz “Mo” Pieterse and Josh Hayes set out on their fateful trip.
In it were plastic bags, and instructions on how to use them to harvest water from trees, even in the middle of the day.
Mr Pieterse, 25, died on Monday after his car got bogged in searing heat in the Simpson Desert. His colleague Josh Hayes, 30, remains in a stable condition in hospital after the pair set out to return to the homestead.
In extreme heat, dehydration drives you crazy and can kill you much faster than you would think.
The body can lose two litres of water an hour, and the mind stops thinking rationally.
Outback survival expert Bob Cooper trains thousands of people how to cope if something goes wrong in Australia’s vast interior – and he provides survival kits.
Bush Heritage, who run Queensland’s Ethabuka Station (where the two men worked), supply ‘to-go’ bags. Mr Cooper says inside was one of his kits, with basic first aid and survival equipment.
Crucially, he says, there’s also a written reminder to think rationally, to prioritise what you need to do to survive.
“The problem is most people who get stranded in those sites with limited water is that the emotional side of your brain kicks in because you know without water you could die… which is quite scary,” he said.
“In extreme heat, the consequences on your mind can be extreme.”
Mr Cooper said a science experiment he did showed you can lose a litre of water every 30 minutes – and that after you lose two litres, you can’t think straight, you’ve got a severe headache and you’re feeling nauseous and frightened. You may be suffering ‘dehydration dementia’.
He said his basic survival kits have plastic bags, which can collect a litre a day out of a large, transpiring tree, condensing and collecting the tree’s ‘sweat’.
Another option, he says, is to collect water from your car. If you’re bogged, turn on the air conditioning and condensed water will eventually drip from the bottom of the car.
And another tip if you find yourself stranded with a limited amount of water: ration it, but drink it by the cupful, don’t sip it.
“The liver and kidneys will rob the first sips… the water won’t get to your brain,” he said.
Mr Cooper says the key to survival is to take personal responsibility, and to take steps to avoid a mishap turning into tragedy. If something goes wrong, accept the situation. Sit down and have a drink, and work out what you need to do to live.
How to survive in the Australian desert:
- Be prepared. Think of every contingency. Pack plenty of water – you’ll need more than you think. Pack a survival kit.
- Stay covered up. Keep your hat and shirt on. Shelter from the sun however you can.
- Stay with your vehicle. It will offer some shelter, and make you easier to find. Use the air con if you can, and collect water.
- If you have a survival kit or plastic bags, try to collect the water that condenses from non-toxic trees.
- Drink a cup of water at a time – don’t sip it.
- Conserve your energy in the heat of the day.
Source: Herald Sun
Mauritz Pieterse Picture: The Courier-Mail