Looking at the world of fiction and popular culture... and real things that should be films.
On a spiritual journey in the desert and lost for 43 day Robert Bogucki's story is an amazing tale of survival (some would say miraculous). And it's a story that would make a great film.
At 15, as a troubled teen in Alaska, Robert Bogucki decided that he would fast in the wilderness like Jesus.
11 July 1999
Bogucki had been riding around Australia on a pushbike when he decided to set out across the Great Sandy Desert from the Sandfire Roadhouse to Fitzroy Crossing, a journey of nearly 700km. He promised his girlfriend, Janet North, that keep a brand new shirt she'd bought for him unworn until he made it home some he didn't “look like a grub.”
Quickly discovering that sandy tracks are harder to ride a pushie on than roads, he abandons his bike and continued the trip on foot. Along with his bike he abandoned much of his equipment, including enough food and water to last for several weeks. Since he'd decided he was going to fast anyway, he didn't need more than a day's worth of food.
After about 5 days Bogucki has almost run out of water, relying on finding waterholes and digging for water in dry rivers.
26 July 1999
Tourists find Bogucki's abandoned bike and equipment was found bogged in a sandy track with his abandoned camping gear a few kilometres along the track. Authorities began a search, sending two teams of State Emergency Service volunteers into the desert with three aboriginal trackers and a couple of members of the local media.
7 August 1999
Failing to find him after two weeks, the search was called off. Bogucki had missed a turn off and left the track to avoid backtracking. Once he headed into the scrub, the searchers had no way to follow his trail any more and the hard decision was made.
17 August 1999
Bogucki's family, however, didn't give up, the family hired specialist US trackers, the 1st Special Response Group, to continue the search for five days. Although hoping to find him alive, the team were prepared in case they had to recover his remains. The new search found new footprints and eventually other evidence he was still alive, leading to the renewal of the official search. The American team got a lot of media attention, and national and international crew arrived to cover them.
23 August 1999
A helicopter hired by news organisations covering the search and ferrying WA reporter Robert Duncan, Channel Nine Cameraman Wayne Waller and Soundman Russell Warman saw a figure on the ground, a couple of kms ahead of the search teams. Landing they found Bogucki in a gorge in the Edgar Ranges.
Going without water for 12 days and food for 6 weeks, Bogucki had lost 20kg (44lb). The news crew then asked him questions about his ordeal while filming him. The helicopter asked if he wanted to be flown to the base camp 5 minutes away which had medical help or back to Broome. The cameraman interrupted saying they'd fly back to Broome. Then they asked him to trek down to the waterhole and show them where he was getting his muddy water from. They asked him to show them what he had left in his backpack. He started to comply, but noted that he'd have a better story for them after he recoporated if they took him to hospital first. He then showed them the contents of the backpack, pulling the label off the shirt his girlfriend had given him, putting on, as promised, because he was going home. Then they filmed him stumbling back to the helicopter, finally after 17 minutes of filming (and an unknown about of unfilmed time between shots) he was given some clean water by the film crew.
Duncan was left behind and another helicopter called in pick him up. The authorities were notified that Bogucki had been found. As they took off Waller noted that this time Channel Nine were the lucky ones and allowed Bogucki to have a banana.
They were soon forced to land so Bogucki could throw up the banana, and event that they filmed from the air. Police attempts to contact the helicopter went unanswered.
|Robert Bogucki, returned to health.|
By the time they arrived in Broome Bogucki, the promise t-shirt was gone, replaced by a Channel Nine shirt and he was rushed into an ambulance and off the hospital. There he agreed to give a pool interview to the reporters from various network, much to the disgust of Channel Nine who felt that they'd been promised an exclusive interview and were owed for saving him. Unable to stop the pool interview, Nine bought up all the satellite time on the local bearer, leaving rivals Seven to use portable satellite equipment that they had brought with them and allowing ABC time with their equipment. Channel Ten were unable to access satellite and left with an audio report only.
The media, as they do found ways to keep the story hot and alive: should he be forced to pay the cost of the search, claims he'd faked it or did it for attention, was it a miracle? The inevitable backlash had begun.
So, a story of hope and survival, with a spiritual element, media greed, American heroes, Australian characters. It has been made into "Miracle in the Desert" a short documentary... but why isn't this a film?