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Missing for more than a month in the Australian Outback, American tourist Robert Bogucki was found alive and amazingly coherent yesterday in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. The food-starved Alaskan native survived an estimated 214-mile journey across some of Australia’s harshest outback terrain.
Bogucki attempted a 500-mile trip across the Great Sandy Desert, which boasts sand dunes more than 30 feet high and thick scrub-a nearly impossible journey even for native Australian Aborigines.
“I just wanted to spend awhile on my own, just nobody else around, just make peace with God, I guess,” said Bogucki, a Fairbanks builder and volunteer firefighter.
A media helicopter tracked down Bogucki this weekend after reports were filed of him missing. On July 26, tourists discovered Bogucki’s abandoned bike only 21 miles from his starting point near the Great Northern Highway . Immediately, authorities organized a ground search team, but gave up a few days later due to difficult terrain conditions.
Bogucki said he had enough water, but lack of adequate food reserves made him lose nearly 45 pounds.
“I am hungry. I am tired,” he told the helicopter crew. “Enough of this walking around. I didn’t have the strength to walk a couple of days ago. When I finally got some water in me I figured I could get out.”
To find water, Bogucki followed a dried up creek bed, where he ran across sporadic water holes. According to survival expert Cody Lundin, humans can live without food for more than three weeks, but only days-even hours in extremely hot conditions-without water (see Backpacker’s “The Wisdom of Abo Dude,” September, 1999).
On Sunday, searchers found Bogucki’s campsite, with a hat, maps, and clothing bundled in a tarpaulin, on the edge of the uninhabited Edgar Range, 110 miles southwest of Broome, Australia. Bogucki discarded all nonessential items at his last camp to lighten his load. He was found walking only a short distance from his abandoned campsite.
“I didn’t expect them to send out a search party,” he said. The helicopter crew lifted Bogucki to Broome where he was admitted to a local hospital.
Many are amazed that Bogucki survived as long as he did in the adverse conditions that the outback threw at him. “He set out to do something, but didn’t know how big, how vast this country is,” said Wayne Waller, a cameraman in the helicopter. “He survived by the skin of his teeth. He couldn’t have lasted much longer.”