A British backpacker who survived three days in the
Australian Outback drinking contact lens fluid and urine has
described how his life was saved by a pair of old rugby
Sam Woodhead, 18, disappeared from a remote station near
Longreach in Queensland last Tuesday after he set out for a
walk about 4.30pm.
He was found on Friday afternoon after enduring three days in
dense woodland, with little supply of water and temperatures
pushing 40 degrees Celcius.
Mr Woodhead has sold his story of the ordeal to the Mail on
Sunday. The proceeds will go back to the organisations
involved in his rescue.
He told the Mail on Sunday how he took off his clothes to
make an SOS sign on the ground; however, crews in two
helicopters which flew overhead on Friday morning failed to
see the sign.
About 2.30pm local time another helicopter passed over and
its crew appeared to have missed him once again; however,
they soon turned around and collected an exhausted Woodhead.
"I asked the pilot afterwards and he said, 'the only reason
we turned around was because we saw something fly up from the
It was a pair of my white rugby shorts that I used in the SOS
sign," Woodhead told the Mail on Sunday.
"The crew had flown over and hadn't noticed the sign, but
they were so low their rotors blew my shorts up into the air
and that was what they saw. That was the reason why they
The crew told him the helicopter had only 15 minutes of fuel
Woodhead was taken to a hospital in Longreach, suffering from
kidney damage and having lost about 12kg.
Doctors told him his hydration levels were so low he would
not have survived for more than a few hours, the Mail on
Woodhead told the paper he hoped to attend Sandhurst next
year to become an army officer. He had set out for a walk
from the ranch in Vergemont where he had been working,
carrying a heavy backpack as training.
However, he lost his bearings and could not make his way back
to the ranch, although throughout the ordeal he was never
more than about 8-9km away.
With only a litre of water, he told the paper how he survived
on sachets of contact lens saline solution, and even tried
drinking his own urine.
"I tried to drink it and took a glug. It was like the contact
lens solution but ten times worse. I had to drink about three
of the contact lens sachets afterwards just to get rid of the
Although Woodhead was concerned the salt content in the
saline solution could have done more harm than good, he
believes drinking the fluid was what kept him alive.
Detective Sergeant Dave Perry told the paper he was
astonished Woodhead survived three days with no water.
"He would have been dead by Saturday if we hadn't found him."