‘The stupidest decision of my life’: British tourist reveals his horrific experience in the Australian outback after getting lost for two days

  • British explorer rescued after he was stranded for two days in the outback
  • Geoff Keys, 63, vanished in the Jardine National Park in north Queensland
  • Mr Keys was saved after he desperately scratched a SOS message in sand
  • The carving read ‘HELP 2807’, and was spotted by a rescue pilot nearby





A desperate message written in sand has saved the life of a British tourist who vanished in the Australian outback after he made ‘the stupidest decision of his life’. Geoff Keys, 63, was stranded for two days in the Jardine National Park in far north Queensland, when the self-described explorer got himself lost when trying to reach an isolated part of the park. Mr Keys was barefoot, alone, without food and fearing for his life as he tried to retrace his steps and return to safety.

However, the Briton wound up more than 12 kilometres from his camp and, in a moment of madness, tried to swim to the Eliot Falls.

The desperate message left by Geoff Keys, the British tourist who survived two days lost in the Australian outback In an act of desperation, the 63-year-old from Kent, scratched an SOS message into the sand – hoping someone would spot it. The carving read ‘HELP 2807’ and had an arrow pointing downstream to where Mr Keys was resting.

‘It seemed a good idea to help myself as much as possible so I got out of the water, found a stick and wrote a message in the sand, just in case the helicopter came down that way,’ Mr Keys said.


2807. >. Help, today s date and my direction of travel. I thought this would be enough to get any helicopter that saw it looking in the right place.’

Geoff Keys, 63, was stranded in the Jardine National Park in far north Queensland after getting lost

A Queensland Search and Rescue helicopter finally locates Mr Keys, who was stranded in the Jardine River National Park

Luckily, Queensland Police Senior Constable and Land Search And Rescue officer Brad Foat saw the SOS sign, after he directed his helicopter outside the original search zone on a hunch. ‘I was stoked as this was the first good clue we had. I made a decision to scout a little further before returning to reassign all the helicopters,’ Mr Foat said, according to Queensland Police.

‘After we travelled another six kilometres I asked the pilot to turn back so I could head back to the drawing board, when out of the blue we spotted our missing man standing in the middle of the creek, waving at us.’

Mr Keys’ feet were battered in the brutal two-day ordeal, as he did not have any shoes on

SAR Co-ordinator Senior Constable Brad Foat onboard a helicopter during an aerial search The intrepid Englishman recalled his joy at hearing the helicopter coming down the river to rescue him. ‘I leapt off the bank into the creek but by the time I d done so it had gone,’ he said.

‘I stood in midstream, yelling at the pilot to come back and he did. He circled me once while I jumped up and down waving my hat. But there was no reaction to my efforts.

Geoff Keys (left) and Brad Foat (right) meet up after the 63-year-old was released from hospital

The Jardine River National Park is in far north Queensland and very isolated

‘He came around again while I continued to jump up and down like a lunatic and this time someone waved to me out of the window.’ But, finding Mr Keys was only half the battle. Mr Foat still had to figure out how he could reach the stranded man and rescue him.

The helicopter’s pilot was forced to navigate rough terrain in the area to find a safe spot to land. The only suitable spot was found about 600 metres from where Mr Keys was stranded, which meant Mr Foat had to dig through scrub and battle the outback before the rescue attempt could be complete.

Mr Keys, who is on an around-the-world journey, poses for a picture with some native Australian wildlife

The rescue operation to save Mr Keys (pictured) involved winching him to safety from the isolated location Despite the massive task, the brave rescue officer said it was worth it the moment he reached the British explorer.

‘Mate you’ve got a lot of worried people back home’, Mr Foat remembers having said, before grabbing Mr Keys hand. He was winched to safety and transported to the Thursday Island Hospital for medical treatment.

The 63-year-old, pictured holding a snake, said he felt ‘stupid but lucky’ to have survived ‘I feel stupid but lucky,’ Mr Keys said, after surviving the ordeal that saw him take shelter under shrubs and have to rely on his most basic survival instincts.

‘I’m sorry about the worry caused to friends and family. Please believe me… I won’t be doing it again!’

The 63-year-old is currently on a around-the-world motorbike journey, and has already made his way across Europe, Russia, China, Japan and New Zealand.

The outback rescue mission is estimated to have cost more than $800,000.

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