I’m heading off alone into the remote Kimberley region of northwest Australia for up to 6 weeks. I’ll have no, no water and the nearest help will be hundreds of kilometres away.
Why on earth would I want to be in such a position? Well that’s the same question two German aviators asked themselves when they ran out of fuel there in their seaplane 85 years ago. They tried their best to survive, which included making a raft from their seaplane floats and trying to trek out overland, but after 6 weeks they failed, and luckily were rescued on the brink of death by aboriginal people.
I’ve been interested in this story since I was a kid because I wondered if I was in that situation could I have survived. So with all the survival skills I’ve learnt up to this point in my life I want to put them to the test and see if I can get out with the same materials that the aviators had.
I’m entering an untouched part of the Kimberley with permission from the local aboriginal people whose relatives found the aviators and were instrumental and heroic in bringing about their rescue. They are very interested to see how I go because they know better than anybody that it’s tough and remote country. Thank you aboriginal people of the northern Kimberley for allowing me on your precious land.
Because this is a private expedition I don’t have funds to buy a replica seaplane or charter a vessel to deliver me to the site which is hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town. I am therefore going to weld up my own replica seaplane floats from old 44gal drums, throw bush logs across the top to make a catamaran and attach an outboard engine to motor me 200km around to Seaplane Bay (named after the aviators).
Once in location I’ll try to make the raft ready for sailing, sail along the coast surviving solely on bush tucker, and trek inland to the now abandoned Pago Mission, the closest civilisation to the aviators back in 1932. I’ll then have to trek further on to Kalumburu Township to find some shop tucker! That will end the survival phase of my journey. I’ll rest up there and meet with some more aboriginal relatives of the original rescuers. Then I’ll backtrack overland to the coast, pick up the raft and motor it all the way back to Wyndham. All up I’ll cover sail, motor and trek about 700km if it goes to plan. I’ll be living solely on bush tucker and finding my own water for up to a month. And yes, there are lots of crocs and sharks, the seas can get very big and I’ll be bobbing about unprotected on a makeshift raft for most of it. It’s not what you’d call a ‘glamping’ trip.
In order to make it as realistic as possible, I’m only taking items that were available to the aviators. I have replicated their cloths including flying goggles and flying hat and I’ll only be taking equipment mentioned in their book about the ordeal, written by the pilot, Hans Bertram. This includes items such as antique linen fishing line, bath robes that they sewed together to make a sail and old tools that they would have had in their aircraft tool kit.
I want to emphasis that I’m not re-enacting their story, only their starting conditions to see if I can make it out using my own bush skills and ideas. I won’t be making fun of their attempt either. I think they did an excellent job with what they had even it didn’t get them out to safety.