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Author Archive | Keith Maxwell

Contacting Emergency Services

with the Emergency+ smart phone app

Some advice to consider regarding contacting Emergency Services from an experienced bushwalker and engineer.

The Emergency+ app is highly recommended for bushwalkers. It lists all the important emergency phone numbers – 000 (triple zero) of course; but also, the SES, Police assistance line, poisons information and many others. It also has a simple clear display of your location as a latitude/longitude which can identify your position anywhere in the world, which is of course important for bushwalkers as the usual “street and nearest cross street” location is not useful in the bush.

But there are some limitations and misconceptions about the Emergency+ app you should be aware of.​

​Firstly, in an emergency, if you dial 000 (triple zero) using the Emergency+ app it is no different to dialling 000 from a normal phone. It does not send any special information and it does not send your position to the 000 operator. You will still have to tell the operator your position, and that can be the GPS coordinates from the Emergency+ app if that is the best way to do it. On the Emergency+ app it gives your GPS coordinates in a box titled “Tell the operator your location” – you have to tell the operator your position as the operator cannot read it from the phone directly.​

​Secondly, the Emergency+ app uses the GPS (or GNSS system to be more precise) in your phone to get your position. If the GPS is having difficulty in getting a position – maybe you are in a damp area, under a thick tree canopy or near cliffs – then the GPS will return the last position it got a fix on the position until a new fix is determined. This old fix could be anywhere you have been recently; maybe at home before you left, maybe on the drive to the start of your walk; but this fix will be displayed until a new fix is determined. The old fix could be wrong by kilometres, or even in the wrong country if you have just done an international flight!​

​To make sure the location fix it is displaying is a current fix and not an old fix there are two things to look at. The simplest is the little map next to the position. Check the maps shown is correct for where you are. But as this is a street map it is not very helpful in remote areas as there might not be any streets nearby so nothing will be shown.

Page 2 or “+” page of app

A better way to check your fix is a current one is to go to the second page of the Emergency+ app (the “+” with a circle around it on the top or bottom bar) and in the red box at the bottom it says “GPS COORDINATES (Address updated XX secs ago)”. Make sure your address has been updated in the time you have been at your current location, and preferably only a few seconds ago. If it shows that your address has only been updated hours or days ago you should be cautious that the position it will display will be an old position which could be miles away.

 

Finally, remember that the position displayed on the Emergency+ app is just one way to give your position. If you know your position as a grid reference from a map, another GPS, a street address or even some nearby landmark then feel free to use that to give your position to the 000 operator. Speak slowly but remember that all calls to 000 are recorded. Any position reference is acceptable, just make sure it is accurate.

Get the Emergency+ App here now

Chardon Award 2019

Two bushwalkers were recognised with the 2019 Chardon Award at the Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) AGM on 20 August.  See the notes below for comments on these worthy recipients; Jim Callaway and Linda Groom.  In 2017 BNSW established the Chardon Award to recognise bushwalkers who have made a special contribution to bushwalking.

LINDA GROOM notes

Linda comes from a Queensland bushwalking family who studied at the University of Queensland before moving to Canberra around 1975.  Since then, she has been a very active walker in Canberra Bushwalking Club where, among other things, she has served two terms as President but now is the current Walks Secretary.  She has been honoured with life membership of CBC.

So, Linda is well recognised within CBC but now Bushwalking NSW wants to recognise her for a contribution to bushwalking with the Chardon Award.  Like many others the author is well aware of the impact of feral horses in the Snowy Mountains.  The difference is that Linda sought to raise awareness of this damage by a long bushwalk.  She was the driving force in a highly publicised event where walkers went from Sydney to Kosciuszko National Park.  Bushwalkers from towns along the route would join her for short sections to swell the numbers.  Along the way these walkers spoke to the general public and where possible local MPs about the impact of feral horses in the Snowy Mountains.  She presented a report of this walk as the guest speaker at the November 2018 General Meeting of BNSW.  This was her second visit as a guest speaker when she spoke of exploratory bushwalks in Central Australia.  A remarkable achievement and definitely worthy of recognition with this award.

JIM CALLAWAY & BNSW notes

On 30th January 2018 my wife and I represented BNSW at the Engadine Catholic Church for a Mass of Thanksgiving for Jim Callaway.  We joined many other bushwalkers for this memorial service.  Over many years we had known Jim as part of Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) but he eventually also became a good friend.  During his time of distinguished service to BNSW he represented the Catholic Bushwalking Club and Sydney Bush Walkers.  In his prime, as a bushwalker, he was known to avoid tracks to go off track at a pace that dubbed him “tearaway Callaway”.

From newsletter archives of BNSW I can say he was Treasurer from 1978 to 1987.  He kept a tight rein on finances as BNSW had an historically low affiliation fee.  In 1992 he was Public Officer for the very new Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs (now BNSW).  Before serving as President in 1998 & 99 he was the 1997 Vice President, a role he took up again from 2000 to 2004.  Records from 2004 are less clear but until the end of 2014 he was continuously on the Management Committee of BNSW (while living at Heathcote; true dedication)

Jim Callaway is definitely worth remembering as a special bushwalker since he gave more to bushwalking than bushwalking gave to him.  On behalf of BNSW I would like to express our thanks for his dedicated service to BNSW.

Keith Maxwell.

 

Bushwalker recognised with O.A.M.

Well know bushwalking historian, rogainer and conservationist Andy Macqueen has been recognised with an O.A.M. in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  It is great to see bushwalking being recognised.

Over many years Andy has been busy in so many ways from rewalking the routes of early European explorers (to determine where they really went) to weeding of invasive willow in remote sections of the Colo River Gorge to delving deep into NSW State Library archives to research the early history of bushwalking and Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).  So, BNSW extends its congratulations to a past BNSW President.

In a way Andy is being honoured for being a bushwalker.  While the O.A.M. newspaper citation is for “service to conservation and the environment” the full citation at the “Its an Honour” website lists –

# Foundation Member, Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams (SPRAT), since 2007.

# Foundation President, Friends of the Colo, since 2000.

# Member, Blue Mountains Regional Advisory Committee, National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

These extraordinary activities are only possible by being a bushwalker.  Hence, congratulations to Andy Macqueen for being a bushwalking conservationist.

The link below to the Blue Mountains Gazette has an excellent profile of Andy Macqueen O.A.M.

https://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/6200917/environmental-activist-andy-macqueen-honored/?cs=1432

Change in search and rescue over time

The history of Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) shows how remote area search and rescue in NSW has changed since 1936 when it was established as the “Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs” (S&R).  In 1936 a team of bushwalkers informally assisted NSW Police in the search for four young men missing in the Grose Valley.  After this search Paddy Pallin, among others, approached NSW Police to formalise arrangements to assist NSW Police in the future.

The model of BSAR has always been to use bushwalkers skilled in remote area navigation to travel independently in National Park type country to aid NSW Police as required.  Mostly, BSAR has been involved in searching for missing persons.

The first “Director” of S&R was Paddy Pallin (founder of the well-known bushwalking shop).

In these early days a telephone tree was used to contact bushwalkers as required.  The S&R Committee would contact a particular “Club Phone Contact” to ‘callout’ club members.  In the very early days search teams would travel by train to an incident.

Sgt Ray Tyson of NSW Police Rescue Squad would often rely on S&R Secretary, Heather White (1959 – 1975) who he thought had an uncanny knowledge of the Blue Mountains.

The “Field Officer” is in control of S&R field operations.  Ninian Melville was appointed as S&R Field Officer in 1961 and replaced Paddy as Director in 1970.  Also, in May 1970 S&R joined the  Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW (VRA) at their first Mid-Year Conference.

HF radio was introduced to S&R by Bob Mead during the 1960’s.  Dick Smith, then a member of Sydney Bush Walkers, assisted in the purchase of the first generation of AM field radios.  In 1979 the second generation of field radios moved to FM SSB.  The ‘QMac’ fourth generation of field radio has given outstanding service for many years as smaller, lighter and more powerful than all previous radios.  BSAR now uses a mix of VHF / UHF radios with these HF radios.

Robert Pallin, son of Paddy took over as Director in October 1971 when Ninian stood down.  Vertical rescue for S&R at this time was done by members of the Sydney Rock Climbing Club (SRC) with Fergus Bell was the “Rock Rescue Officer”.

Fergus Bell worked closely with Robert until he became Director in September 1980. Later, in July 1984 the author moved from Field Officer to Director.

NavShield was set up in 1989 by Secretary, John Tonitto (1987 – 2012) so 2018 was the 30th NavShield.

A major change occurred in 2001 when S&R became a fixed membership squad since it was no longer acceptable to ‘just’ callout club bushwalkers.  S&R incorporated as “Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad” (BWRS – later to become BSAR) to formalise its training and member skills through CBT (Competency Based Training).  BWRS separated from “Federation” with the author its first President.

Overtime, remote area search and rescue has changed further.  In 2018, after much consideration, BSAR reluctantly left the VRA and moved to NSW SES (from 1 May) as a better place to fulfil this role.

Within SES the most senior person in SES BSAR now is its Controller, currently Paul Campbell-Allen.

Since 1936 BSAR has been involved in many incidents occasionally multiday.  Some high profile searches have included an injured person below Narrow Neck, near Katoomba (1949), schoolgirls Monica Schofield (1963) & Vicki Barton (1969), Scout Leader lost in the flooded Shoalhaven River (1977), Trudie Adams (1978 – see 2018 ABC TV investigation), three young men lost in Kangaroo Valley (1987), lost plane and pilots at Kanangra Walls (1993), lost plane in Barrington Tops (1981; an ongoing mystery), David Iredale, near Mt Solitary of the Blue Mtns (2006), deceased person on Mt Cloudmaker (2007 – see VRA Journal Volume 2.3) and Sevak Simonian at Kanangra Walls (2014)

Technology has improved outdoors safety.  The latest field radios can give continuous GPS location of BSAR search teams.  Mobile phones now have better coverage and distress beacons (PLB and EPIRB) can send an emergency signal far more quickly for a person in distress.  However, many people don’t have access to these devices which are yet to be 100% effective.   Experienced ground searchers like SES BSAR are still essential.

Further history of BSAR can be found in a Google drive folder at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cSOMp9zsdYCFG7qbtHrrSQ2-i36U64Pz

Keith Maxwell

President BSAR

Special Award for bushwalking

This is a call to member clubs of Bushwalking NSW to nominate an outstanding bushwalker(s) from their club as a potential recipient of this special award of Bushwalking NSW.  This award is intended to also raise the profile of that great outdoors activity; bushwalking.

The CHARDON AWARD is intended to recognise particular bushwalkers who have made an exceptional contribution to the bushwalking movement.  It is named after Harold Chardon who was the foundation Secretary, in 1932, for “Federation” now known as Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).

CRITERIA:  An award to a bushwalker who has made an outstanding contribution, over a number of years, to the NSW and ACT bushwalking movement; hence it must be more than service to just one club of Bushwalking NSW.  Deceased members should not be excluded.

The award was first offered in 2017 to Dodie Green of Yarrawood Bushwalking Club and the late Wilf Hilder.

In 2018 the recipients were David Noble of Sydney University Bushwalking Club (SUBW) plus the late Gordon Lee.

NOMINATIONS:  Please forward the nomination from your Club for the Chardon Award to the President of Bushwalking NSW, Alex Allchin at president@bushwalkingnsw.org.au

Keith Maxwell.

Battery Testing for torches

Should a small battery tester be considered an essential item of bushwalking equipment?  Modern LED torches just keep getting better and better.  Battery technology has also gone forward in leaps and bounds with various types that seem to last forever and ever – “best before 20xx”.

My first bushwalking torches used incandescent light bulbs that were miniature versions of house light globes.  Like house globes, torch globes had a limited life span so the folklore was always to carry a spare globe.  But LED lights are so much brighter from a lamp with an almost infinite life span plus they keep getting better and better.  A little while ago the switch on a 100 Lumen head torch failed.  The replacement torch under warranty was 160 Lumens.  Same model just a few months apart.

Our early torch batteries were the ‘red’ carbon batteries.  The Zinc case formed part of the electrical reaction.  They would self-discharge in a short time (go flat) often leaving a corrosive mess.  The batteries were not very powerful so torches had to be big to hold “C” or “D” (large batteries).  Now, alkaline “AA” and “AAA” batteries can be purchased in multi packs.  Even better types of battery are available or your choice of rechargeable battery.

Thus, it is easy to keep a light, compact, bright headlight torch that uses small “AAA” batteries at the bottom of the day pack ‘just in case’ – no wandering in the dark from an unexpected delay.

However, since batteries last so long it is easy to forget to check them.  Most LED torches have a system of still giving out light as the batteries progressively fail.  Corrosion can still eventually happen.  So, you turn on your torch in a bright room and you have light but how good is it really?

Such a torch let us down recently at a disused, open access railway tunnel at Helensburgh.  This amazing long single-track tunnel was brick lined for reinforcement.  The current double track railway through the mountainous terrain has by passed this tunnel.  It was dark enough to have impressive glow worms.

Fortunately, a dud torch was not a problem as our group had all taken spare torches.  Later at home, I found corrosion had started on one battery.  My battery tester indicated that the other batteries were also on the way out.

When did you last properly check your emergency torch?  Importantly, when will be your next check?  Over time I have seen a range of different battery testers with one thing in common.  They were all cheap.  There is no reason not to have a battery tester so you can be sure your emergency torch won’t let you down.

Keith Maxwell.

Blue Mountains Mystery

The Blue Mountains holds many mysteries, but one is unusual.  Among the mysteries are two planes and a memorial plaque.  The Blue Mountains have claimed many planes but mostly their crash time AND location is known.  Aeroplane Hill in the Blue Labyrinth outside Hazelbrook is the crash site of a then new RAAF Wirraway fighter from a group of four being relocated on 1 August 1940.  More recently, in 1993 Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (now Bush Search and Rescue NSW) helped find (deceased) the pilot and passenger from a Cessna that disappeared over the earlier October Long Weekend.  CMW bushwalker, Brian Walker saw the wreck on a ridge across a deep valley off the Boyd Plateau (near Kanangra Walls).  So, the time AND location of these crash sites are known.

BUT, two planes remain as a mystery.  WHEN they crashed is known but their location is NOT known.  The United States Marine Corps will be eternally grateful to anyone who could locate the wreck of a Dragon Rapide biplane freighter (and its passengers).  Surprisingly, many of these planes were still constructed in WWII and continued in service post WWII.  On 17 April 1943 two US Marines were passengers on a Dragon that was seen to be in trouble in the lower Blue Mountains.  Again, on 22 October 1954 Max Hazelton came back from the dead when he walked into a Post Office now covered by water of Warragamba Dam.  He had survived a crash and a six day walk from the Kanangra Walls area.  Max later established the regional Hazelton Airlines.  In 2014 Dick Smith and Max unsuccessfully tried to locate his crash site.  Thus, the time BUT not the location of these aircraft crashes is known.

What about a different mystery where the LOCATION is known but NOT when and why??  The location of a memorial to a WWII Battalion is known but little else.

Splendour Rock at the southern end of Mt Dingo in the Megalong Valley is an outstanding location to remember bushwalkers who died in the armed services of WWII.  From Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW) records we know the names of the first bushwalkers to see this site and when its fabulous memorial was installed in 1948.  “The Bushwalker” archives at www.bushwalkingnsw.org.au describe the dedication service, led by Paddy Pallin, on ANZAC Day 1948.  For many recent years there has been a simple memorial service each ANZAC Day at Splendour Rock.  All bushwalkers should consider attending this moving service with its dry overnight camp at least once.

So, not only do we know the location and time of dedication of the Splendour Rock plaque but the names of the fallen bushwalkers we remember each year.  In 2014 the NSW State Library eagerly accepted the nomination, by the author, of Splendour Rock for their register of NSW War Memorials; see www.warmemorialsregister.nsw.gov.au/content/bushwalkers-war-memorial-splendour-rock

Very few at Splendour Rock would know where to look for a much smaller memorial to 2/17th Battalion of the WWII A.I.F.  (The ‘second’ Australian Imperial Force; A.I.F. was the Australian Army of WWII).  Why was this plaque installed to remember “MATES” of just one of many battalions of one of several Divisions raised in WWII?  Information from the Australian War Memorial (AWM) shows that during WWII the size of a battalion was modified but was still less than 800 men.

Just to the west of Splendour Rock is a small south facing wall.  Location for this plaque must have been more important than access as you need to scramble over a large boulder then look up.  The plaque is above your natural eye height.  Who were the “MATES”?  Some only or all the infantrymen of this particular Battalion?  Author, Michael Keats is more than 90% certain that bushwalking historian, Wilf Hilder (deceased) told him that Gordon Broom installed this plaque.  Now, from National Australian Archives we know a Gordon Broome served in the 2/17th Battalion.  Much later he was a member of Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW).

Thus, here is the mystery.  We know the location of a memorial plaque to ‘MATES’ possibly installed by Gordon Broome BUT not when and why.  Since it is near the Splendour Rock plaque, which was dedicated in 1948, this ‘MATES’ plaque should be post 1948.  Many lines of inquiry have failed to provide further information.

SBW records cannot offer any further information.  The family are not keen to be contacted.  The 2/17th Battalion Association (BA) is mostly made up of ex-servicemen post WWII who trained prior to disbanding the Battalion in 1946.  The few very old hands still alive from WWII cannot help with this mystery.

Wilf Hilder knew much about the Blue Mountains, but we can no longer ask him.  An important logbook would seem to have been lost in a fire of Paddy Pallin’s shop around 1970.  An entry from a 1958 logbook in the NSW State Library mentions that an earlier logbook was passed onto Paddy Pallin.  The Paddy Pallin archives have no mention of this ‘MATES’ plaque.  Bushwalking NSW has incomplete records of old “Bushwalker” annuals / magazines on their website.  Equally, there seem to be no records of the names of the 140 bushwalkers who attended the 1948 dedication.

However, Gordon’s name does appear many times in campaigns from North Africa to New Guinea of the official history of the 2/17th Battalion (plus a privately published history of “B” Company).  He did not escape injury being wounded during close combat in New Guinea.  Is Gordon remembering the ‘MATES’ who helped him survive but also mindful of other mates who could not be helped?

For many years post WWII Gordon was active in the BA social sub-committee.  In 1953 he also joined a sub-committee to add a further memorial to those of the 17th Battalion (from WWI) at St Thomas Church, North Sydney.  Eventually in 1956 a plaque was installed with the words; “IN MEMORY OF THOSE MEMBERS OF 2/17th INFANTRY BATTALION WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES 1939.1945″.  The BA still have a service of remembrance each year on the Sunday before ANZAC Day.   Could the “MATES” plaque at Splendour Rock have also been installed around this time?

So, why is this “MATES” plaque at this particular orientation?  Small trees have now grown up but it would seem that the plaque has been placed, up high, to follow the sun from sunrise to sunset of “The Ode”, “… At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them…”

Can we be sure of any emblems on this plaque?  There can be no doubt that the shallow “T” in the top centre is the ‘T for Tobruk’ award that can only be shown by Battalions who took part in this terrible siege of 1941 in North Africa.  (The encircled troops still took the fight up to the German “Afrika Korps”.  The repulse of the Easter 1941 attack may have been the first defeat of a ‘blitzkrieg’ attack.)

The importance of the diamond emblems can only be guessed at since the logic of Gordon Broome remains unknown.  While the colours must have been very deliberately chosen there are two possible explanations.  Information from the AWM suggests that the black over green are the colours of the (WWI) 17th Battalion while brown over red applied to the (WWI) 23rd Battalion.  Now, both the 2/17th and 2/23rd Battalions were part of the Tobruk siege but why mention the 2/23rd when records also show close liaison between the 2/17th and 2/13rd Battalions in this siege.  OR do the diamonds apply to liaison between battalions in the later New Guinea campaign?

An alternative suggestion from a member of the BA is that the 2/17th Battalion used the black over green diamond until they sailed to North Africa when the brown over red diamond was adopted.  The problem is that battalion diamonds from WWII have a narrow grey border.  Either way this plaque would have required some planning and expense.  There is no maker’s mark on this plaque.  The high position of this plague at Splendour Rock suggests that its installation may have required two or more bushwalkers.  Perhaps the mystery is a deliberate act so we should just remember the many ‘MATES’ of the 2 A.I.F. who did not return.

So, the mystery at Splendour Rock seems to endure as on another ANZAC morn the sun slowly rises again over the distant Kings Tableland to stab the valleys with shafts of sunlight.  Cloud hides the water of Lake Burragorang.  The memorial calls us to remember the fallen but leaves us to seek out their names.  The same sun starts to light up the ‘MATES’ plaque; lest we forget.  Does it matter that we don’t understand the full mystery?  The plaque was not put there for you or me but by fellow mates.  You should, like the author, now seek out this “MATES” plaque each time you visit Splendour Rock to stand in silent respect and wonder at the strength of friendship plus dedication required to remember ‘MATES’ at this remote location.

 

Keith Maxwell.

Be extra snake aware this summer

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of 31 December 2018 has a worrying report of two deaths from Tiger Snake bite.  Antivenom was administered but it would seem that the dose was insufficient to counteract the snake venom.  The SMH article suggests that there may be disagreement within the medical profession regarding the guidelines for the correct dose of antivenom; just how much antivenom is an  appropriate dose of the latest type of antivenom.  However, there is a call for more research in this matter that has been echoed by the Victorian Coroner.

Any snake bite victim needs to seen promptly by medical services.  Despite this SMH report death from snake bite is now rare with modern antivenom.

Now since snakes are more likely to be active in the recent warm weather bushwalkers need to be more vigilant than usual and consider protective measures such as wearing gaiters or long trousers.  As always, it is better to never get bitten but never forget your First Aid training for the treatment of snake bite.  The necessary broad bandage needs to be easily accessible such as near the top of your rucksack.

A recent post from the Royal Flying Doctor at https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/news/flying-doctor-issues-new-snakebite-advice/ contains excellent advise for treatment of snake bite.

Keith Maxwell.

Bushwalkers help in cold case

Teenager, Trudie Adams went missing in 1978 while hitch hiking home in the Northern Beaches area.  Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) took part in the subsequent NSW Police investigation of this disappearance.

On Tuesday evening 30 October ABC TV aired a program on missing person, Trudie Adams.  At that time none of our members wore any style of uniform, even the Committee.  So Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (full name then was the ‘Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs’ now BSAR) was often just mentioned as among the ‘volunteers’.  The TV program aired a lot of archival news footage but nothing of BSAR members.  The NSW Police uniform was very different to now.

BSAR rescheduled a training weekend for the search.  Walkers went home each night.  Sunday morning had a particularly fierce frost.  The area was very different to now.  An oval (now gone) at the junction of Mona Vale Road and the Forest Way was the search command base.  Mona Vale Road was just one lane each way except for a long slip lane from the Forest Way towards Mona Vale.

Long stretches either side of Mona Vale were searched.  Among the ‘finds’ was a pile of Playboy magazines.  We could only guess why they were dumped; upcoming marriage?  A dank pool of water was bubbling.  This was from something dead but a pig not a person.  Equally, the Police were interested in a mound from a small grave but it was that of a dog.  Other tracks in the immediate area were also searched.  On Sunday, one searcher noticed a garbage bag under a tree.  The Police got very excited when it turned out to be a sawn off shot gun!  It was promptly collected by the relevant Police Squad.

Later, the family of Trudie Adams sent a hand written thank you note to BSAR.

The past is always another country, especially 1978.  BSAR still had their basic first generation field radio – AM HF.  There are two more TV programs to come about this unsolved disappearance.  Pre program promotion suggests that a murky time of Police corruption may be investigated in the next two weeks.