Dutch woman uses ‘bushcraft’ to survive Australian ordeal

Sydney, January 13

A Dutch woman lost in a “dense and unforgiving” Australian forest for five days used “bushcraft”, including covering herself with mud and stuffing her clothing with river moss, to stay alive, police said today.

Veronique Biunkens, 41, was staying at a retreat in Victoria state when she went for a walk in the bush last Thursday near Buchan, about 355 km east of the state capital Melbourne, and did not return.

She was only reported missing by the retreat’s staff on Monday, with rescuers finding her Tuesday afternoon next to a creek some 1.3 km from W Tree, a remote area that police said had “dense and unforgiving” terrain.

She had not eaten for five days and survived by drinking water from the creek bed, Victoria police said.

“When they found her she was absolutely covered in mud from head to toe, and she’s told the searchers she’s put the mud all over her to protect herself from the sun during the day,” Inspector Mark Edwards told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Her clothing was stuffed with river moss, and she used the river moss to keep herself warm during the night. It’s acted like a bit of a doona (quilt/duvet).”

Biunkens also built a small shelter between two trees, using branches and bracken, to “make herself a little hut”, Edwards said.

“She’s been very, very smart, and used some bushcraft to keep herself alive.” The policeman praised Biunkens for staying at one spot after realising she was lost.

“People always say when you start walking in the bush and you lose all sense of direction you basically end up going round in circles, and you can end up really hopelessly lost,” Edwards said.