Cruising Remote Western Australia: SOS Rock Mystery

Warning from stranded cruiser when cruising this remote part of Australia – always carry an EPIRB or satellite phone at all times when going ashore.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

As reported by

A sailor has told how a crocodile destroyed his rubber dinghy and left him and a crew member stranded in a remote part of Western Australia’s Kimberley region for a week.

Robert Burn was the man at the centre of a recently solved mystery, which made headlines around the world last month after the discovery of an SOS sign made of rocks at Swift Bay in Montague Sound.

The SOS sign was photographed by a helicopter pilot in the area and prompted an urgent call from police who were trying to establish if anyone was lost in the bush.

Last week police confirmed they had been contacted by a man who said his brother had made the sign in 2013 after becoming stranded in the area.

The Story

That man, Robert Burn, and his offsider Joan, anchored about 500 metres off the coast and went to shore in an inflatable dinghy in search of rock art and a freshwater spring.

After tying their dinghy to a rock, they spotted a 3.5-metre crocodile swimming towards them and scrambled to safety.

In a statement to the ABC, Mr Burn said he threw rocks at the crocodile to try to scare it off. “The crocodile was not deterred. It went to the dinghy and tore off the back of the inflatable pontoon,” he said.

“It was all quite quick and we realised we not getting back to our little ship any time soon.”

Mr Burn said they did not take any food with them in the dinghy.

“I harvested oysters at low tide, whilst Joan stood lookout,” he said.

“After a couple of days we worked out there was at least two of them [crocodiles].”

Mr Burn said there were tears of joy when they were rescued by a passing vessel on the eighth day, by which time Joan had lost eight kilograms off “her slim frame”.

“I guess we could have survived for a month or so on the water spring and eating oysters, but we would have been in poor shape.”

Warning to fellow travellers

Mr Burn has urged anyone else travelling in the area to take an EPIRB or a satellite phone with them at all times.

He said he made the mistake of leaving his satellite phone on board the boat. “We can only advise those following us to be extremely prudent when venturing ashore in that neighbourhood,” he said.

His warning has been echoed by WA Police, who have also thanked everyone who shared the story and helped Kalumburu police solve the mystery of the SOS.

Mr Burn has also upgraded his inflatable dinghy with an aluminium one.

He said he was currently in Turkey on his “faithful” yacht, completing his “bucket list”.

Related to following destinations:

Related to the following Cruising Resources: , ,

You must Login or Register to submit comments.