Missing man?s amazing trek for survival
LEFT to bob like a cork in shark-infested Capricorn Coast waters, a 30-year-old man embarked on an epic fight for survival with a gruelling two-and-a-half hour swim to a deserted coral reef.
But his ordeal did not stop there.
As he watched the tide go out and a moonless nightfall approach, he sat and steeled himself for a tedious and painful six-hour barefoot walk across a razor sharp coral reef cay.
At 2am yesterday, his friends looked on in surprise as he stumbled into the camping area on North West Island, halfway between Rockhampton and Gladstone.
The 30-year-old, whose name has not been released, was spear fishing at an area near the island on Thursday afternoon when he was seemingly swept away around 4.30pm.
A friend searched for 90 minutes in a dingy before going back to their campsite to alert two more friends and the authorities.
Yeppoon Water Police Sergeant Shaun Halson received a call around 5.45pm informing him there was a missing man in the water, and swiftly co-ordinated a search.
Australian Search and Rescue also alerted police that an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) had been activated near Tryon Island.
"In total there were five vessels doing a search," Sergeant Halson said at the end of a long night.
"We had a series of helicopters on standby."
However, the helicopters were called off when the man walked into the campsite after a gruelling nine-and-a-half-hour mission to reach the island.
Sergeant Halson said the Brisbane man swam for two hours towards "an island in the distance", which by a stroke of luck was North West Island where he was camping with friends.
He then found an area of reef to stand on and wait for the tide to go out, so he could begin the painful 10 kilometre bare-foot walk along the coral towards the island.
It would take mammoth a six-hour effort to beat the tide back in to ensure the man did not spend the night in the water.
"He is a very lucky boy," Sergeant Halson said.
The Yeppoon-based Water Police, Gladstone Water Police, Yeppoon Coast Guard and Gladstone Volunteer Marine Rescue were given sections of water to search on what was a moonless night.
A helicopter from Heron Island also conducted an air search, but to no avail.
Yeppoon Coastguard's Gordon Fry said they received a call about 8pm to assist with the search.
He said the man's amazing effort was one which almost certainly had to be undertaken in his situation.
"You've just got to make your mind up for it and do it," he said.
The man received first-aid treatment for lacerations to his feet and legs after he walked into camp.
He was not transported to hospital, and is believed to be continuing his camping trip with friends on the island.