The Australian bush, the rural or undeveloped region between the cities and suburbs and the Outback is, like any natural landscape, a very beautiful place, but also an easy place to get lost in, even for experienced bushman and travellers.
There is a myriad of ways to get lost in the bush, such as looking down at the ground to avoid stepping on an animal or tripping on a log or low-lying branch, to simply wandering through the trees looking around. In the bush many of the trees and plants look the same, and often times they hide landmarks such as mountains or manmade objects one would use to find their way. And all of this can be made worse on overcasts days when you can’t see the sun.
When you’re lost, in any location or situation, the first thing to do is stop, take a breath and keep calm; panicking and stressing out will not help you, nor anyone else. If you have any eat or drink, and take inventory of what you have on you, what do you have that could help you out of the situation you are in.
If you don’t have anything that could help, or have any skill or experience in the bush, remember. Don’t panic. There are some tricks you can use to find your way.
One way is to search the trees for moss, particularly white oaks, as they grow on the side of the tree facing north, so you can use this as your compass. Sometimes the moss while circle the entire tree trunk, but you’ll find that the majority of it grows on the north side; you’ll also find some clumps of moss growing on the ground just in front of the tree, also facing north.
Another important thing to do is mark your compass tree, or the tree and the moss you used to find north. This is important as if you get lost again or feel that you’re not heading in the right direction you can find this spot again, and know it, and use it again to find your way. The best method to use is tie something large and an unnatural colour or something fluorescent high up in the tree you’re using as your compass reference, so that way you can see it and identify it from a distance. However, if you don’t have anything to use, and please do not use items of clothing unless you have them to spare, you can use other methods such as laying a large log against the tree, making sure that it doesn’t look like a natural feature, or break some of the branches, maybe on one side. Do something to this tree that makes it easily identifiable from a distance and so you know this is your compass reference tree.
Once you’ve ensured that your reference tree is marked and easily identifiable start moving north. Keep checking the trees for the direction of the growth of moss to confirm you’re heading north, and look out for any signs of landmarks, natural or manmade, or camps, roads or anything that can help you find your way. Keep marking reference trees when your previous one is about to disappear from sight, so as to have a way back if need be, and to ensure you don’t get any more lost than you are.
It is not essential to travel north. If you know that there is a landmark or area where you can get help or find your bearings, such as east of roughly where you are then head in that direction keeping the moss facing to the left when heading east, facing the right when heading west, and facing behind you when travelling south.
Another thing to try when lost is to yell ‘cooee’ as loud as you can three times 10 to 20 seconds apart. For generations the indigenous Australians have used this word to communicate long distances, and people today use it for the same purpose or to find their way out of the bush. No animal in Australia or the world makes a noise or sound like cooee, so anyone who hears it will know its human, and that that person needs help.
The Australian bush is one of the iconic and beautiful natural locations of the continent, but is also a place to easily get lost in. If you do find yourself lost, just remember: don’t panic, remember the moss points north, mark your trail, yell three times, and you shall be fine.
Video created by Ghostkamo