Help Sign Saves Lost American Hikers in New Zealand


A day hike in a New Zealand national park turned into a survival situation for a mother and daughter after they took a wrong turn and got lost.  Fortunately, they managed to survive after being lost for five days, and it was due, in large part, to a help sign that they made out of some fern fronds.  While they were fortunate to get out alive, they could have avoided getting into trouble in the first place if they were better prepared.  Let’s look at what went wrong, and how we can avoid finding ourselves in a similar situation.


Poor Planning

The first mistake they made involved poor planning.  While the daughter packed a little bit of water and some snacks in her small backpack, she didn’t have any gear or emergency supplies.  No water filter, no tent, no extra clothes, no flashlight, no cordage, no nothing.  To make matters worse, they didn’t tell anyone where they were hiking or when they planned on getting back.


They also didn’t have a map or trail guide which could have prevented them from getting lost in the first place.  They started the hike by following a series of orange trail markers that led to a summit.  After they spent some time enjoying the view, they decided to move on, but they lost sight of the orange markers.  Instead, they chose to follow some blue markers, thinking that it was just a different trail that would lead to an exit.  However, the markers led them deep into the wilderness and through some difficult terrain, and they got lost somewhere along the way.


If they had a map, or some basic idea of the trail system, they most-likely wouldn’t have gotten lost.  If they had supplies, their time in the wilderness would have been a lot-less dangerous.  Most importantly, if they told someone where they were going, rescuers could have begun their search a lot sooner, and chances are that the pair wouldn’t have been forced to fend for themselves for five days.


Minimal Skills

Aside from a lack of supplies, the pair also didn’t have a solid set of bushcraft skills to rely on.  They rationed what little food and water they had, they used leafy branches and ferns for warmth, and they sought shelter in little alcoves or under trees.  They didn’t forage for food, they didn’t hunt, and they didn’t build a fire.  They also didn’t have a water purifier or filter.  All of this could have been a recipe for disaster.


Fortunately, they got one thing right when they decided to build a large help sign on an open piece of ground.  Rescuers finally started searching the area after the hotel reported them missing after they didn’t check out and authorities put two and two together.  The help sign was noticed by a rescue helicopter, and the pair was located soon after.


Both survived, but both also came within inches of death’s door.


This is classic example of what not to do before going on a hike, even if it’s in an area that you’re relatively-familiar with.  It only takes one mishap to turn a simple, random day hike into a survival situation, and you want your bases covered if and when that happens.  Make sure that you take a backpack with minimal supplies, tell someone where you’re going, and have an idea of how you would respond if things go wrong on the trail.  Not everyone is as lucky as this pair was, and many people lose their lives every year after getting into trouble on day hikes.  Don’t be one of them.




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