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Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc.

PO Box 403
Nowra NSW 2541

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Beecroft - June 1998

A Real Find - report by Lauri Ball

During our January recess, all was not so calm. About 10pm on the 14th January the phone rang and a plan was instigated for a search and rescue. Two of our maidens were in distress. It was hard to believe that Lillian and Daphne were caught out on the Beecroft Peninsular. They had called on a mobile phone to say they couldn't make it home on their one day walk -done to get into shape for their upcoming Tasmanian trip.

The call was relayed to Russ Evans. He and Dawn went to work to find the two ladies in distress. A party of about ten members was called to meet at 4am in Nowra and to be in place not far from the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse by sunrise. This was done and we were ready to go well before the sun rose. Our day packs held plenty of food and water. Two teams were formed, one to start from a point south of their reported position, and the other to start from a point north of the point. Each team had a whistle and we planned to use it every fifteen minutes - three long blasts. The search started at 5:20am and we entered the bush at 5:40am. At 5:45 the whistle was used and sure enough a reply was heard from the two stranded souls. It was pretty easy to get a bearing on where the sound was coming from. The only problem was getting through the bush.

The bush was nearly impenetrable. Only through the experience of Russ and his leadership did we tackle this unbelievable tangle of two-metre high, matted tea tree, ferns, reeds and nasty f$%# bush. Russ led and we followed. It was really hard work and after five minutes or so we had to relieve each other in trying to make headway through the matted bush. The sun wasn't up, but we were sweating profusely and getting out of breath quickly. Pushing, kicking, trampling, laying on the bush and crawling over it, we made slow progress, keeping up the whistle calls and voice calls such as Cooee etc.

Slowly we got closer. Daphne had placed a white plastic bag on a stick and she elevated it into the air. One of us stood on a frail bush, straining to look over the scrub, and caught a glimpse of the plastic bag. We knew we were close to our target. It took us one hour exactly to reach them. Four men and one woman beating a path through this wall of bush that had prevented two women from getting out. They had run out of energy and time the previous day trying to get out of this mess. Our people took one hour to go about three hundred metres. We returned along the same path we had followed in, of course, and our time out was only seventeen minutes. Distance from the road only one hundred metres. It had seemed unbelievable that they could have been stuck, but after we entered the bush we well understood why they couldn't get out the day before.

Daphne and Lillian had wisely taken a mobile phone. They had given their position very accurately and knew where they were. They just did not have enough energy to get out of the mess they had entered. I now know why ladies carry such big packs on their back. They had all the things necessary to stay out overnight. This made their stay possible, even in a spot which was not ideal. They were just tired and out of energy, and certainly could have come out of such a situation a lot worse than they did.

There were lessons to be learnt from the walkers' point of view and also the rescuers. Lillian and Daphne had done everything right - apart from entering into thick bush which was tougher than they were. The rescue was very ably handled by Russ and Dawn Evans. I was very pleased at being part of the team and seeing it work so well. I wasn't convinced we could penetrate that bush, but Russ said "Let's go" and it was done only because of his experience. It was good to get home and have a nap knowing all was well.

Lillian and Daphne have now gained enough experience to permanently join the ON TRACKERS. After three walks having had their card signed off they will be able to be full members. Their first year will be probationary of course!

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