Couple Rescued from Swamp After Plane Flying Over Sees Word 'Help' in Mud

For years, the phrase “everything in Australia wants to kill you” has circulated on social media whenever someone brings up the weird wildlife in the land Down Under. It’s no wonder, really, that it holds this reputation given that Australia has vicious critters such as spiders that catch and eat birds.

While it’s home to adorable koalas and cute-but-dangerous kangaroos, it’s also home to toothy great white sharks, neurotoxin-spewing cone snails and terribly venomous eastern brown snakes. Scary stuff, no doubt about it.

But one of Australia’s most deadly animals is a beast everyone knows about: crocodiles. In fact, a couple from Western Australia almost learned that the hard way.

Shantelle Johnson and Colen Nulgit had decided to go on a fishing trip at Keep River National Park, according to the BBC. Located far north on the continent, it’s an isolated area.

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While they drove in their car, something terrible happened: They got stuck in the marshland mud. No one really wants to experience that while out in the middle of nowhere.

“We tried digging, and we tried putting stuff under the tires, but it didn’t budge,” Johnson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We were pretty scared and worried, but we were just hoping someone would come.”

No one did — and don’t forget that this is Australia and an unspoiled national park at that. Johnson and Nulgit soon found that they had more to worry about than mere inconvenience.

They had noticed crocodile tracks in the mud. Also, their vehicle’s location put them very much at risk.

“We were stuck on the marshland, and we were right next to saltwater,” Nulgit said. “We stayed in the car the first night, and then we saw the water rising.”

Unwilling to become a hungry reptile’s dinner, the couple took their dog, Ace, up to a drier spot where they set up camp. Though they had water, they hadn’t brought much food.

They tried to stay positive, though, lighting a fire and writing the word “help” in giant letters near their camp. The couple hoped that any rescue aircraft would spy them.

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They had good reason to hope. Before leaving, they had contacted family members, told them where they were heading and gave an estimated time of return.

Do you make sure to tell someone when you are going to return from a trip?

When they didn’t show up, their loved ones contacted emergency services. After they had been missing for 26 hours, a search plane nearby saw their message and the smoke from their fire.

“It could have been a different story if they hadn’t done that,” Kununurra Police Acting Sgt. Dean Andrzejaczek said. “It’s always a good idea to tell family where you’re going and what time you are expected back.”

By the time rescuers arrived, the couple was wondering if they were going to survive.

“There were thoughts like that going through our heads, but we had to think positive,” Nulgit said.

“When [the rescuers] came a bit lower to the ground, we jumped out of the car and started to wave them down. It was overwhelming, emotional … We were pretty happy that we’d made it.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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