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I left in the early afternoon to look for some cattle thought to be lost in remote bush on the edge of my farm. I farm sheep and beef on a 3,500 acre property in Taranaki, New Zealand. It was mid-winter. I had ridden the quad bike to the back of the farm, high up in the hills. From there I intended a relatively brief walk (2-3 kms) along several ridges following cattle sign. We had already got 23 out earlier in the week, and there was still 9 missing. By 3pm, I was coming back out but progressively got more concerned that I was lost. I spent the next 2 hours attempting to find my way out. It was big dense bush and quite hard to see out of. By about 4.30pm I had decided that I was disorientated and that though I had needed to go south and west, I had probably followed a ridge well east of where I wanted to be.
At this time of the year it's dark around 5.30pm and fairly dim in the bush a fair while earlier than that. By just after 5pm I thought I might be headed in the right direction but I was not going to get out of the bush before dark and it would be too dangerous to keep trying to walk in the dark. I didn't have any lights. It was very steep and rugged. I had good wet-weather gear and was reasonably clothed. The weather was changeable with thunder in the distance with passing showers. My family knew very roughly where I was and that I had the beacon with me. I was almost certain they would ring Search & Rescue.
I certainly considered just staying in the bush and trying to walk out in the morning. I was unclear what the weather forecast was and hence how big the risk was. I decided just after 5pm whilst I could see what I was doing and in the only area of clear sky on top of one of the ridges that I could find to activate the beacon and sit down and wait under some cover near to it. It wasn't a very big area of clear sky, and a helicopter came into the general area an hour or so later.
As you will see from the following newspaper coverage, the Search and Rescue had some difficulty locating the beacon signal - I imagine because of the difficult position. The helicopter had to leave to refuel and came back a short time later. I was reasonably certain he had found me and saw the strobe light on the beacon (I had been waving the beacon in an attempt for sometime to attract their attention through the tree canopy). The helicopter spent about 5-6 hours in the air, most of it helping the three land based Search & Rescue teams walk-in through the night. One of the teams got to me at 2.30am in the morning and with the help of head-lights, GPS's, compass and verbal communications with other teams on other ridges, we walked out to be at the farmhouse by 4.30am.
Taranaki Daily Newspaper - Report 9 July 2013 Rescuers find lost farmer KIRSTY MCMURRAY Last updated 05:00 09/07/2013 A farmer who got lost in remote bush in Eastern Taranaki at the weekend sparked an all-night search and rescue operation. The Taranaki rescue helicopter and a land search and rescue team were sent to look for the 53-year-old man, and found him safe early yesterday morning. Senior Sergeant Allan Whaley said the farmer's personal locator beacon was activated at 5pm on Sunday in Makahu east of Stratford. He said the farmer had gone out on a quad bike about noon to get some cattle out of the bush and had not returned. The Rescue Co-ordination Centre sent out the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter about 6pm. Pilot Mike Parker said conditions had made it extremely difficult to find the man. "It was really dense bush, there was fog and rain, and it was dark, there was no moon." The land search and rescue team was then sent out as well, but it was the rescue helicopter crew who eventually spotted the man about 11.20pm. "Our equipment got us close but the terrain is so steep the signal just kept bouncing around." Mr Parker said they had just been able to see a strobe from the man's locator beacon but were unable to land or winch anyone in or out. It took a further two hours for the search and rescue team to reach the farmer and still longer for the group to return. "They did a really good job to cover that terrain so quickly." Mr Parker said the helicopter had to return to Stratford to refuel three times during the rescue operation. Ad Feedback - © Fairfax NZ News
To the makers of the ResQLink+ beacon, I would like you to receive my heartfelt thanks for the rescue of my husband on Sunday night. The beacon sparked the search after he became disorientated in dense bush and we all know and appreciate that without the beacon his rescue would not have been as quick and the outcome as successful as it was. My sincere thanks for providing a professional and efficient service throughout this very worrying time. Linda Morrison
Thank you ACR!
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