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Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc.

PO Box 403
Nowra NSW 2541

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The following information was taken from

Newspaper extracts - May 2000

Teens lost in Budawangs

Up to 100 rescue personnel will scour bushland near Nowra today for four teenagers missing since Saturday after bad weather hampered yesterday' s search. Three helicopters on standby yesterday managed to take to the air for part of the day but were recalled about 4pm because of heavy rain. Most searchers on the ground also were called back.

The four teenagers, from Wamboin near Queanbeyan, were due to meet their parents at a pick-up point at 4.30pm after a 48km walk for their Queen's Scout Award.

Teens found safe in bush

Four teenagers missing in rugged bushland after setting out on a 48km hike more than a week ago were found safe yesterday.Police said the group was discovered by rescuers conducting a ground search in Morton National Park on the State's south coast about 4.30pm.

"They were located about 15km along the route they were initially planning on taking," a police spokesman said.

"They all appeared to be well and not injured."

The group's rescue brought to an end an air search which covered 400 square kilometres of the national park.

About 100 police volunteers and military personnel had been scouring the area from the air and ground since the teenagers were reported missing on Saturday.

Chris James, 18, sister Karen, 15, and friends Steven Rowe, 17, and Alison Robb, 16, from the town of Wamboin, near Queanbeyan, had not been seen since 9am last Wednesday when they were dropped at Nerriga, 95km southwest of Nowra.

The group then set out on the 48km cross-country trek which they wanted to complete to enable one of them to achieve the Queen's Scout award. The alarm was raised when the teenagers failed to meet their parents at an arranged pick-up point at 4.30pm on Saturday afternoon.

Once found, the group was winched out of the bushland and flown to HMAS Albatross before being driven to Ulladulla police station where they were reunited with their parents.

A Scouts Australia spokesman said only Christopher was a Scout and Alison and Steven joined the bushwalk as part of their Duke of Edinburgh medal requirements.

"We're thrilled that they've been found," the spokesman said.

Senior Constable Cornell Van Ryn from Ulladulla police said although the area was wet and fog had previously hampered the search, the weather conditions were much milder yesterday.


Teenagers safe after 8 days in bushland

Four teenagers winched to safety after spending more than a week lost in rugged bushland, last night told of their desperate attempts to catch the attention of rescue crews."We had a whistle and a bright orange jacket which we waved around," Chris James, 18, said.

"We also put leaves into the fire to make the smoke thicker but they just couldn't see us. Each day we thought this is the day we'll get out but it didn't happen until today."

Chris, his sister Karen, 15, and friends Steven Rowe, 17, and Alison Robb, 16, had not been seen since being dropped at Nerriga in the Morton National Park on the State's south coast at 9.00am last Wednesday.

The group had planned to complete a cross-country 48km hike to Pigeon House Mountain. But Chris said the group realised at the end of the first day's trek that they were off course.

"We weren't where we were meant to be, the first night we camped a little bit higher than we were meant to and from then on we were a bit off track."

The group continued walking, hoping to find their way, but stopped on Saturday after they were due to meet their parents at a scheduled pick-up point at 4.30pm, realising their parents would then call in search teams when they failed to show.

A massive air and ground search for the group was mounted with about 100 police, volunteers and military personnel involved in the four- day search covering 400sq km of the National Park.

"We just lost our bearings," Chris said. "It was hard to keep track of the valleys and the cliffs got higher and higher and the forest got deeper. It was hard to navigate and we were not quite sure whereabouts we were."

Chris, who was undertaking the hike in order to achieve his Queen Scout award, said once the group realised a search had started they remained still and waited.

The teenagers survived on potatoes, carrots, noodles and nuts and passed time by telling jokes and playing cards.

The group, all from the town of Wamboin near Queanbeyan were rescued after a ground search party heard voices about 2pm yesterday.

The group was winched on to a helicopter and flown to HMAS Albatross in Nowra. They were taken to Ulladulla Police Station to be reunited with their worried parents.


How we survived 8 days on trek that went wrong

On the afternoon four lost teenagers were found alive and well, the mood at search headquarters had turned to near desperation. For eight days nobody had heard from Chris and Karen James, Alison Robb and Steven Rowe after they became lost on a planned four-day, 48km hike through Morton National Park on the NSW South Coast.

"That was the day the search was being cranked up," Steven's father, Kevin, said on Friday.

"They were dropping teams out into the bush to camp overnight and had brought more choppers and searchers in. The general feeling was that it was now or never."

It was 4.27pm on Wednesday when volunteer searchers found the foursome in rugged bushland, after hearing their faint pleas for help over the past two hours.

They were near exhaustion, hungry from eating only survival rations and starting to lose hope as the light faded on their fourth overdue day.

Karen James, 15, who decided to join older brother Chris's quest for his Queen's Scout medal, despite never having hiked before, admitted she had started to despair.

"We had seen choppers come and go over the past couple of days looking for us," she said. "Some were so close that we could see inside them and then when they left for the day, after it got dark, you would think: Oh no, we are going to be stuck here forever."

Expedition leaders Chris and Steven said they realised they had set off on the wrong fire-trail after six hours on the first day.

"The map and the road were different and we realised we had made a mistake pretty early on," Steven, 17, said. "We realised we had taken the wrong road, but it was all right because before we camped for the night, we figured out exactly where we were on the map, so we could start the next day fresh."

But over the next three days, the group was unable to find a reliable track through the dense scrub, despite walking for 10 hours daily. Faced with waterfalls that were not on their maps and steep cliffs constantly blocking their path, they stopped moving on Monday.

"That was when we realised that we were not going to be able to walk out of there and decided to wait for the choppers to get us out," Chris said.

Fog obscured the smoke from signal fires they lit at their camp site over the next three days. They rationed their food and survived on powdered potato, noodles, carrots, cheese and salami.

"We were a really good team together and I think that helped us through it," Alison, 16, said.
``All of us, except for Karen have spent a lot of time in the bush -- we are all pretty experienced, so we brought our own survival skills."

They spent their time talking, singing "daggy" songs and trying to stretch meal times over the three days spent in the one camp.

"We tried to cut our food into tiny pieces and make it last a long time," Karen said.

Last week, as they gathered around the dining table at Steven's farmhouse two days after their rescue, the four - who live within 20 minutes of each other in rural Wamboin, near Canberra - spoke of their relief at being reunited with their families.

"It was very emotional, everyone was crying," Alison said.

Yesterday they decided to splash out on the feast they had planned during their long wait for help.

"We are going for pancakes," Steven said. "I promised them at one stage that I would get them pancakes after all those noodles and I intend to stick to it."

Surviving in the bush

* Pack enough food and water for two extra days if possible.
* Bring enough clothing and shelter to stay warm and dry at all times, and a basic first aid kit.
* Pack maps and a compass and know how to read both.
* Never head into the bush alone. Always let family and authorities know of your intended route.
* The ideal walking party consists of four experienced people. If one person is injured two can break off and search for help.

Information provided by Michael Merrett from Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue, a volunteer organisation affiliated with emergency services.

An inspiration

The spirit that sustained four teenagers lost for eight days while trying to earn a Queen's Scout Medal is inspirational. Despite their cold, hunger and frustration at hearing searchers' helicopters pass by their remote camp site for two long days, the group never lost hope.

Instead, they focused on survival.

The parents of Chris and Karen James, Alison Robb and Steven Rowe credit their coping skills to a country upbringing at Wamboin, outside Canberra.

The youngsters showed the strength needed of future leaders, and their apparent failure at not reaching their destination shouldn't discourage others from following their adventurous lead.

Benefit from experience

As a parent of two of the four teenagers lost and found last week in the Budawangs, I express our profound appreciation to the great many people who generously offered their services in finding them.

Words are inadequate to express our anxiety during the four days they were overdue, and the joy at their discovery and rescue.

We have been overwhelmed by the expressions of support and encouragement, not only from family and friends, but from people we have never met.

The hikers, who were well skilled, planned and equipped for the expedition, are very conscious of the concerns for their plight.

They will certainly share the benefits of this experience with the Scouting and bushwalking communities.


Teenage bushwalkers found safe
By Sharon Labi

SYDNEY, May 3 AAP - Four teenage bushwalkers missing since Saturday were today winched out of a national park on the New South wales south coast uninjured.

The teenagers set out on the expedition in the Morton National Park near Ulladulla last Wednesday, but failed to return as scheduled on Saturday. Their disappearance sparked the largest search and rescue effort in the area for at least 10 years, Ulladulla Senior Constable Cornell Van Ryn said. Christopher James, his sister Karen and friends Alison Robb and Steven Roe are expected to be reunited with their parents at Ulladulla police station later this evening. The four, aged 15 to 18, were winched from a canyon about 4.30pm and taken to the HMAS Albatross navy base in Nowra and later to Nowra Hospital for medical checks. Snr Const Van Ryn said all were in good health.

One of the search teams heard female voices on another mountain about 3.30pm (AEST) and made verbal contact with the group while alerting the SouthCare helicopter.

They were located about 15km from their starting point but off the main walking track.

Their rescue followed the earlier winching of a 42-year-old woman searcher who fractured ankle during a fall today.

Christopher, an experienced scout, led the expedition in a bid to attain the Queens Scout award. A Scouts Australia spokesman said only Christopher was a scout and Alison and Steven joined the bushwalk as part of their Duke of Edinburgh medal requirements.

"We're thrilled that they've been found," the spokesman said tonight. "We're enormously relieved. We were getting a bit worried but in accordance with guidelines, they did have extra food with them, but it would have well and truly run out by now."

Snr Const Van Ryn said although the area was wet and fog had previously hampered the search, weather conditions were mild today.

Rescue teams searched a 400 square kilometre area and experienced bushwalkers camped in the area overnight. Police also remained at the entry car park and at the Pigeon House Mountain exit where the group were due to return on Saturday.

Australian Search and Rescue in Canberra coordinated the search patterns for the five helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft involved in today's search.