In October 2014, Dr. Simon Donato, founder of Adventure Science, led a small team of scientific researchers into the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Tsingy de Bemaraha in western Madagascar.
Adventure Science founder Dr. Simon Donato shares how it all went down. Read Part 1 here.
“By noon of the second day, it was apparent that we would only stumble upon more water by chance, and that it would take us much longer to move the approximate 10 km south than we had anticipated. We were forced to make a decision – continue to push our weakened bodies in hopes of finding water, or call in a rescue. After deliberation as a team, we chose to call for help. We perched ourselves atop a small clearing and settled in to wait for assistance to arrive.”
“As the hours passed, and communications with our team via our inReach made it clear that there were minimal rescue options available. We were looking at a food and water dropped from a fixed wing aircraft, or having our own team members trek in with water. Neither seemed like viable options do to the ruggedness of the area. With minimal battery life left in our inReach satellite communicator, a lost GPS, a few peanuts remaining, and less than 1 Litre of the vile chlorine soup we called water, we had another decision to make – trust in a rescue or move at night to try and self-rescue. “
We knew that if the planned water drop failed the following-morning, we would likely die out there as we’d have another full day in the sun and no water to support our movement. Our satellite communicator batteries would fail and we’d be unable to continue to communicate with our support team. One more time, we worked out our options – move at night and hope that we find more water, or wait until the morning light to find out if there were any new rescue options. Ultimately, in light of our collective fatigue and lack of knowledge about the terrain south of our position, we decided to wait in a spot where our support team knew our location and hope for the best.“
“When we made our satellite communication the next morning, we received our life saving news. One of our team members (Melissa Rae Stewart), with the assistance of the Honorable Ed Holder’s office in London, Ontario, Canada, had been able to coordinate an air rescue. Seeing the helicopter appear over the horizon several hours later was one of the best moments of my life. When the pilot walked over to us, the first thing he said through a big smile was “You’re all alive!”, and then shook all of our hands. After we each guzzled about a litre of water each, he and his co-pilot flew us to the small town of Antsalova, where our field vehicles were waiting to take us back to our camp where we received medical care from our medic, Albertan Tyler LeBlanc.
Thanks to the quick response of all individuals involved, three Canadian lives were saved, and after some rest and recovery, we were all able to continue with the research project, which proved to be an incredible success.”