A 62-year-old recreational hunter lost in a hot and arid region of the Australian Outback survived without water for six days by eating ants, police said yesterday.
Reg Foggerdy left a car driven by his brother last Wednesday in pursuit of a camel in the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia state, Police Superintendent Andy Greatwood said.
When we found him he was dehydrated, disorientated and delusional”ANDY GREATWOOD
After his brother alerted authorities, police trackers found the former miner sitting under a tree yesterday morning 16km from where he became lost.
“He just spent the last two days under a tree eating black ants and that sustained him,” Mr Greatwood said. “When we found him, he was extremely dehydrated, disoriented and basically delusional.”
A paramedic immediately gave Mr Foggerdy intravenous fluid and he recovered quickly.
“The good news is he was sitting up and talking,” Mr Greatwood said.
Mr Foggerdy was airlifted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to the Kalgoorlie Hospital. He was admitted in stable condition, hospital spokesman Peter Cogan said. The brothers had been driving back to their camp 110 miles east of the nearest town, Laverton, after a day’s hunting when Mr Foggedy went missing, wearing only a T-shirt, shorts, a cap and flip flops. Temperatures reached up to 37 degrees celsius, Mr Greatwood said.
Mr Foggerdy, who has been described by his family as an experienced bushman, appears to have shot and killed a camel a short distance from the camp. The carcass was the central point of the police-coordinated land and aerial search.
He would not speculate on how much longer Foggerdy could have survived.
“It was probably goodwill and a miracle that he survived as long as he did under those conditions with no water,” Mr Greatwood said.
Mr Foggerdy’s wife Arlyn said she cried when she heard he had been found alive.
“How you can survive without water and food is a miracle,” she said.
Bob Cooper, an outback survival expert who has written a book on the topic, said that the combination of dehydration, which impairs brain function, and the panic of being lost was “probably the worst thing you can put people through”.
“Fear turns a mishap into a tragedy,” Cooper said. “Just because your car won’t start, that isn’t a tragedy, particularly when it has probably got most of what you need in it. But people panic and start walking.”
That is what appears to have happened to two men who died in January after trying to walk for help.
On 4 January, a car driven by a 60-year-old man broke down between Wonganoo and Windidda stations, near Lake Carnegie on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, about 1,000km north-east of Perth.
The man camped next to the car with the woman he was travelling with for one night before setting off the next morning to walk the 48km to Windidda Station in 40C heat. His body was found on the roadside 2km from the station on 7 January. The woman, who remained with the car for an extra night before walking, was found alive by station workers the same day.
Nine days later and about 400km away, Clayton Miller, a 39-year-old truck driver, became bogged down 15km past the Mileura Station homestead. He started walking back to Mileura after trying and failing to dig the truck out, and made it 13km before doubling back. His body was found 1.1km from his truck, which was reported to be carrying ample water.