Within 24 hours, Australian Authorities rescued two motor-cyclists in separate incidents in the remote Simpson Desert – highlighting not only the difficulty involved with remote rescue, but how the investment in a couple of pieces of communication equipment literally saved their lives.
One of the many problems with this area for rescue agencies is that the location is almost the same distance from Cairns, Darwin and Melbourne – the home bases of the dedicated Search and Rescue aircraft operated by AMSA (the other base is Perth). The nearest helicopter capable of conducting a Search and Rescue mission is at Mount Isa, meaning that is often not available in the search area until the following day. Travellers in these remote areas need to be self-sufficient and prepared to wait for rescue.
But the bikers became separated on Tuesday after one rider ran into mechanical trouble and needed to be picked up by Northern Territory police, about 170 kilometres north-west of Birdsville.
The others only made it another 100 kilometres before two more encountered mechanical problems of their own on the following day.
The remaining bikers left the pair with enough food and water for the evening and a satellite telephone.
Unable to reach emergency services, one man used the satellite phone to call his wife. He relayed his co-ordinates and asked her to call in the rescue chopper.
In a separate incident, another motorcyclist was rescued after breaking his collar-bone after falling off his bike near Walkers Crossing on the Cooper Creek, south of Birdsville. Having driven this track earlier this year, it covers all sorts of terrain, from rough gibber plains, to clay and sand floodplains. The biggest danger though is not the track itself, but the wildlife that abundant in the area. Emus, Kangaroos and even Camels can make any crossing treacherous – particularly if you don’t have the protection of a four-wheeled vehicle.
This country – magnificent as it is, rarely gives you a second chance. These days, there is a host of small and relatively inexpensive items you can carry, which will turn a potentially life threatening situation into an inconvenience at best. All should be considered as part of your remote communication plan. Additional details can be found in my e-book – Save Our Selves – A guide for getting help in remote areas.