Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 12:42 UK

10 ways to survive in the wild

A British teenager has survived a fortnight lost in the Australian bush. What are the dos and don'ts of staying alive in terrain like that?

Backpacker's father describes being reunited with his son

Jamie Neale, from north London, went missing in dense bushland in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and was eventually found by two walkers.

His father says he survived on berries, leaves and water, and slept under logs. The weather had been foggy, wet and freezing.

The area is a mountainous region dissected by deep gorges, with hanging swamps and heathland. There is eucalyptus forest on the higher ridges and rainforest in the sheltered gorges.

In this kind of environment, what are the rules of survival?

1. Water is crucial, says Mike Jarmain, chief instructor at Cambrian Survival in west Wales. In that kind of terrain, you'd ideally take it from as high a source as possible so it is less polluted, and drink running water rather than still. Boil it first if you can make a fire. But be careful following streams because these can lead into very dense vegetation. And don't drink urine - it will only dehydrate you further.

Blue Mountains
Temperature in winter dips below zero

2. Stay warm, because night temperatures in the Blue Mountains dip below freezing at this time of year - it's mid-winter in the southern hemisphere. "You can use anything that has similar properties to down, just shove it into your clothes to create air gaps," says Mr Jarmain. "People have wrapped themselves in grass inside their clothing, as long as it's dry. You're trying to make an insulating layer if at all possible."

3. Be visible to encourage a rescue. "The worst-case scenario is being deep in gullies where the vegetation is thick," he says. "You want to get to an area where they can see you, maybe an opening in a forest where trees have blown down, but you're between a rock and hard place because that might not be where the water is."

4. Respect the snakes. They will generally stay out of your way, but don't antagonise them. While not all snakes in Australia are poisonous - and they hibernate in winter - it's best not to take any chances.

BE PREPARED
Warm clothing, including hat, gloves and waterproofs
A whistle will save your voice
Means of lighting a fire
Map and compass
Mobile phone
Tell people where you're going
Source: Cambrian Survival

5. Turn over a log to find edible insects, says Mr Jarmain. Larvae are generally safer to eat than plants, but don't take risks with what you eat. Avoid plants that smell of almonds or marzipan, or if the leaves are very glossy.

6. Watch your footing. Circumstances can suddenly become life-threatening if you are immobilised because of a sprained ankle or broken leg, especially if you're on your own.

7. Test berries by squeezing some juice on your tongue, says Nick Vroomans on his website, Staying Alive Survival Services in Australia. Plants are the easiest way to get nutrition, but you need to know which are poisonous. If you're not sick within four hours, it's probably OK.

8. Don't obsess about finding food, because it's not as important as staying warm and finding water, says Bob Cooper, who runs survival courses in Western Australia. You'll always find something to eat, such as the heart of the grass tree - an Australian native - or just grass, which can be chopped up. Then there are nuts and yams, and the stems of bulrushes taste like leeks. "You need to think of eating a variety of things, as your body needs protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and above all, carbohydrate," says Mr Jarmain.

9. Heat up rocks if you have fire, then bury them in the ground where they will keep warm all night long, providing a cosy place to sleep. A shelter can be made from branches from eucalyptus or gum trees, which are evergreen and can be easily broken. This will provide protection from the elements and keep the warmth in.

10. Never give up. This backpacker must have had an excellent positive attitude, says Mr Cooper. An amateur prospector went missing in the Outback for four days and was looking for a place to curl up and die when he was found by Aboriginal trackers. That is not the right attitude.


Below is a selection of your comments.

Most snakes in Australia are poisonous. The least colourful are the worst - Dugite, King Brown, Tiger...
And as for lifting a log to look for grubs, this is precisely where you are going to find sleepy snakes this time of year. Poke about underneath the log first with a long stick. Number one survival tip - carry a stick.
Richard, Perth, Western Australia

Once you find a place where you can be seen, stay put. If you move around the searchers risk never finding you.
Michael Sakellaropoulos, Athens, Greece

The best thing to do is to prepare before setting off rather than wasting emergency services time and potentially endangering others lives through your own lack of planning/ability.
John Harper, Marden

We are taking the Rangers (part of Girl Guides) wild camping this weekend in the Lake District, what are we thinking? But we have been trying to drill into them all the important points about keeping warm and drinking lots. Least we don't have snakes to worry about.
Liz, Wakefield

Never go bush-walking without matches or a lighter. The fire keeps you warm at night and smoke can pinpoint your whereabouts. It is a different story in summer though. Common sense regarding bushfire must be used. Clear a space in the open and light a small fire adding green leaves for smoke.
Gordon Hammond, Sydney, Australia

I have to say "Well done for staying alive in really difficult conditions; but next time, remember your phone!" It's good to see a teenager making headlines for showing determination. Jamie may have made a mistake, but he showed the guts and determination to survive. I reckon the British stiff upper lip is alive and well (if suffering from dehydration).
Robin Pierce, Slough, UK

The most important thing is NOT to get lost in the first place. The Blue Mountains, while incredibly dense, has pretty good mobile phone coverage - he should have been carrying that for a start. He apparently saw helicopters a few times and tried to attract their attention by waving a dark jacket - being English, he would have been far better off exposing his chest by moving his shirt up and down. He would have flashed like a strobe and been highly visible. And larvae of course are generally excellent sources of protein.
Alex, Coolatai, Australia



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