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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bob Cooper - Australian survival expert

A couple of months ago I was privileged to meet and interview Bob Cooper, considered to be one of Australia's leading and most respect desert survival experts and instructors. What a fascinating and interesting man he is to listen to. He has a huge knowledge of outback survival and respect for nature. 

Meeting Bob in Perth, I was immediately struck by his quiet confidence that is so different from the Bear Grills’ exuberance that pits man against the environment.

You can read my report of his interview in the latest edition of Go Camping Australia magazine October-November 2012 edition.  Below is a short excerpt....



“Nature isn’t cruel, but it is unforgiving. Mother Earth keeps you alive, it gives you everything you need and you shouldn’t be scared of it.”


Bob’s enormous respect for “Mother Earth” comes from years of experience, which began during his school days exploring bushland around the Swan River and Canning Dam. At the age of 17 Bob decided to walk from Perth to Yanchep with a bag of food, only 2 litres of water and a map torn from the front of a 1970 street directory. By the end of the first day as he lay thirsty and sunburnt in the sand hills, he knew he was in trouble, but fate saved him in the form of a water tank at an abandoned fisherman’s hut. 

Bob was also involved in three Mayday situations while working as a commercial fisherman and professional diver, and in 1983 when he had to walk out of the Great Sandy Desert after a forced helicopter landing. 

In 1981 Bob was accepted as a civilian to take part in a SAS survival course. This tough training ground led to his accreditation as an Australian survival instructor. In 1982 he worked for the WA Museum assisting with recording aboriginal sites in the Great Sandy Desert with the traditional elders. Bob was humbled by the “aboriginal people’s knowledge, kindness and their understanding of nature”, and touched by their spirituality which combines in a deep respect for the land. He learnt all he could from these traditional desert people, adding to his knowledge through time spent with the Lakota Sioux in Dakota, the Texas Parks Service, Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana, and the Orang Asli in Malaysia

“All those experiences added to my understanding and traditional knowledge. The key elements were respect, and that is what I try to teach.”

To read this full article, please read Go Camping Australia magazine, October-November 2012 edition. 
 
Bob in his outdoor classroom. Photo courtesy of Bob Cooper.
According to Bob, the five major wilderness survival priorities are water, warmth, signals, shelter and food.  Bob says his two day Wilderness Survival course, survival kit and his new book, Outback Survival, are suitable for the average camper, explaining how to satisfy these basic needs in simple, easy to understand language.


 “Knowledge dispels fear. If your knowledge level is low, your fear level is high. The more you know about a subject your fear level will come down. When it meets in the middle that’s what I call respect, for yourself as well as an all-encompassing respect for the people around you and for the environment. If you are not in control when you have a mishap, who is? When fear is high, it overrides common sense. The rational side hasn’t got a chance.”

Since 1990 Bob has conducted survival courses world wide, 105 just in Perth, including working with government agencies, mining companies, tour operators, corporate and school groups. 

Bob reiterates the importance of planning and knowledge. Learn all you can, avoid panic, carry plenty of water, a survival and first aid kit.


“Preparation is the big one—physically and mentally preparing yourself for the what-ifs.”

From what plants can you safely obtain water? Can you use a compass? How would you signal for help? Do you know how to use a compression bandage for snake bite? Do you know how to light a fire or even how to tie a knot?

Too many people “have an over-dependency on technology as well, such as a GPS which should only be a backup for your basic skills. The first time you use a compass shouldn’t be when you’re lost.”

He stresses and teaches the importance of learning to read a map and compass, and how to navigate by the sun and stars in case you ever doubt your compass (although he says compasses are very rarely wrong). When bush walking, even with a tour group, always be observant, noting physical features as you walk, for example, a burnt-out tree, distinctive rocks, flowering plants. Look back every 50-100 metres as everything will look different on the return walk. And when navigating with a compass, learn to rectify your bearings as we all have a tendency to walk to the right or left of every object we pass. (Who knew to do that?)

Water is your most important need. One of the biggest survival myths is to sip water. A sip is quickly absorbed by food and other organs, so no water ends up reaching your brain. Not good. It’s best to drink an entire cup—and not a good idea to drink urine—it only makes your thirst worse.

“When you’re dehydrated, after a few hours your ability to think clearly and rationally can be diminished by about thirty per cent. Combine that with fear and you have a recipe for disaster. People have turned mishaps into tragedies because of dehydration.”

Like those who have died with water still in their vehicles because they chose to walk for help.

“Your vehicle is a great resource, so stay with it.”

Burning a tyre a day to signal for help; creating the letters, SOS, on the ground; and learning how to identify toxic plants so you can collect water with a plastic bag from safe plants are just a few of the many survival tips in Bob’s book.

Survival in the Outback is all about staying calm, keeping hydrated and making a plan of action.

“Nature isn’t cruel, but it is unforgiving. Mother Earth will keep you alive, if you know how. You shouldn’t be scared of it.”

Bush tucker lunch


To learn more please go to Bob Cooper's website where you can find out about his survival courses, book and survival kit - please click here on the link -  www.bobcoopersurvival.com


8 comments:

  1. What a fascinating man and interview. I bet the full version is amazing nd I cannot wait to see it!

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  2. Sounds like a very interesting man! His courses are like the real thing and not quite like the TV show "Survivor". Great post and thanks for sharing the interview!

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  3. Hi Jill
    Received the magazine in our office last week and I just go back from Victoria and read it yesterday
    I think it is great – thank you also for your effort and professionalism
    Glad to hear you had a trouble free trip and many more to come – I hope
    Would you be interested in another article about snakes and snake bite treatment for the magazine?
    Thanks again
    Bob

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  4. ps - I did go back and interview Bob about snakes and it was published in Go Camping magazine December2014-January2015 edition.

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  5. What an interesting bloke. He sounds as though he may have had nine lives with so many lucky escapes. I love that he is teaching survival skills in the great outdoors under a boab tree. Must be in The Kimberley!

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  6. Just read this again, and it was just as interesting as the first time (yes, I'd forgotten stuff too!)

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  7. I'm impressed both by Bob and you. Love it. I like his quiet confidence, it builds confidence in other people too.

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  8. What an informative read Jill. I thought that bit about drinking a cup of water rather than sipping it could be very helpful indeed. Safe travels!

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