Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Survival Story

Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth, both 21-year-old college students from the U.S., took a hike into the mountainous wilderness of New Zealand's South island — where they promptly got trapped for nine days.

The plan was to hike and camp for a few days near a hot springs. But you know how plans sometimes run amok. This was one of those times.

Torrential rain turned to sleet and then to snow, then back to rain. The foul weather continued for days on end, pinning them down beneath a makeshift tarp shelter hung over their sleeping hammocks while the river rose to a threatening roar.

Unfortunately, they weren't prepared for a 9-day stay in the wilderness. If they had been prepared, it would have been nothing more than an extended camping trip. But as it was, this turned into a dicey survival situation as they rationed their meager food supply and hoped the weather would break.

One day, it was a biscuit and jelly, shared between them. The next day, it was even less. Rations were running out, and still the storm raged, getting worse with each passing day.

After 8 days of no sign of the couple, a friend finally notified authorities and a search was begun.

When the weather abated, Alec and Erica decided to attempt to hike out of the mountains. They crossed an icy stream and were concealed by the dense forest canopy when they heard a helicopter. Eventually, they came to a road, and encountered the search and rescue team.

In the debrief, some interesting points were raised.

  • The couple exercised good judgment by staying put in their survival camp during the stormy weather. If they had left the shelter and tried to hike out of the mountains in the storm, they might not have survived the exposure to the elements. 
  • They didn't attempt to cross the river when the water was high and the current strong, and that was a good choice. 
  • Alec made the comment that he relied on past experience hiking and camping and was confident that they would survive. But in my opinion, past experience should have prompted him to go better prepared for the the unexpected. "I believe when you go into the bush," he said, "that you take your life into your own hands and need to be prepared to handle whatever conditions occur." Then he added, "We could have been more prepared."
The good news is that they got out alive, and hopefully with a fresh perspective about what it means to be prepared for the unexpected.

On the negative side, Alec sounded flippant about the helicopter, stating, "We were climbing the mountains under dense tree cover when we first heard the helicopter we assumed was looking for us. The copter never saw us and we walked out just fine and met up with the search and rescue by the road."

What he apparently fails to understand is that the helicopter wasn't out there for a joy ride. Men and women on SAR teams risk their lives to try to save people who have gotten themselves into trouble. If you hear a helicopter, don't just stand there picking your nose — get to a clearing and do everything in your power to make yourself visible to the crew. They're out there looking for you, so don't let your ego get in the way of their rescue attempt.

Testosterone overdose is a dangerous thing. And in this case, he was responsible not only for himself, but for Erica as well. Time for him to take the next step in his maturity as an outdoorsman.


  1. I'm all for not trying to save everyone anymore, there's way too many of us on this rock.

  2. Neither hiking nor camping is such a strenuous, but adventurous activity. You'll get to be exposed into the wild and learn stuff such as surviving. For me, rations are one of the most important things when doing this activity. However, it must be combined with other survival kits. Erica or Alec should have used flashlights, flare gun, or light sticks to get the attention of the people from the helicopter.