I don’t care that Bear Grylls says humans can only last three days without water. I also don’t care that Bear Grylls, a professional adventurer and former SAS commando, can survive the Australian outback by chewing on tree roots and stabbing crocodiles. What I really want to know is whether a person like me—who is irresponsible, perpetually unprepared, and usually has a stray jar of Dolmio somewhere in the car—could survive more than 24 hours alone in the wild.
Enter Brooke Phillips, who became stranded in the desert near the borders of Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. The 40-year-old Mt Gambier woman was driving to a remote outback community with her cat and dog when she took a wrong turn and became bogged in the middle of nowhere, the ABC reports.
Brooke panicked, as any Aussie battler would, and skulled all her water on the first night. "I was hyperventilating and I thought nothing is going right, no-one will find me,” she recalls. She cranked the air-conditioning until she ran out of fuel, and after that tried covering the windows with towels to block out the harsh desert heat. Then, as the days wore on, she started thinking about how she was going to sustain herself.
Brooke tried eating Cruskits, but her mouth was too dry. So she turned her attention to the liquid-based foods on hand. Her inventory of supplies reads like a stocktake of items in every share-house pantry ever: pasta sauce, coconut cream, tinned tomatoes, lemon juice, and some straight red cordial. Brooke ate and drank them all. She even drained the water from her windscreen wipers and drank that. And then, on the sixth day in the outback, she drank her own piss.
“I suppose that saved me,” she says. “I was thinking I'm getting to desperate measures and no-one is coming out here… I was sitting in the car and I thought If I have to do one more day I just don't know if I'm going to make it.”
She made it, of course—in part because her family noticed she was missing and triggered a land and air search involving 12 police officers and about 20 members of the community. Also, though, because she sustained herself on meagre rations of pasta sauce, Cruskits, red cordial, and piss, in an environment that has claimed seven lives in the past month. And that makes for a truly inspiring survival story.
Against all odds, Brooke’s cat and dog also survived the ordeal. Bear Grylls would’ve roasted them on a spit by the second day.