Help scrawled in desert sand saves tourist


Font Size: Decrease Increase Print Page: Print By Rebekah Cavanagh | February 29, 2008
THE word “HELP” drawn in the desert sand has led searchers to a lost French tourist who had been missing in the Northern Territory Outback for five days.

The woman had also scraped the word “LOST” into a sandstone outcrop and left her jacket and remnants of food scraps including egg shells and aluminium foil over a path through bushland stretching about 8km.

Searchers following the trail, and footprints left behind by the woman, finally found her after a 35-hour search yesterday.

Rescuers said the woman was badly sunburnt and dehydrated and extremely relieved to see them. Alice Springs Superintendent Kym Davies said the woman had told them she could hear rescue helicopters continually buzzing over her but had no way of getting their attention.

“She thought she was never going to be found,” he said.

“And from a police perspective we were getting really concerned for her welfare too.

“We were unsure how much food or water she had and the conditions are pretty extreme with quite rough and hilly terrain for her to navigate.

“For us, 36C doesn’t seem like much, but for a European visitor it can be extremely dangerous, especially when they are walking around.

“We sought medical advice today and were told she would last no more than seven days, so we were extremely worried as time passed.”

Police launched an extensive air and ground search for the 22-year-old woman on Wednesday after she failed to return from a bush walk.

She had registered her walk with rangers before setting off along the Giles track at Kings Canyon in Central Australia about 11.30am on Sunday.

She was meant to arrive at Kings Creek Station about midday on Monday after camping overnight along the 22km track, but she never showed.

A search all day Wednesday failed to find any trace of the missing woman.

But Supt Davies said searchers yesterday morning found what they believed to be the woman’s tracks.

And he said when they followed the prints, they came across the woman’s jacket, the word “LOST” scraped into the sand, and remnants of food.

He said the last piece of evidence they found was the word “HELP” written in the sand.

A short time later, rescuers flying above in a helicopter spotted the woman on the ground.