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A tale of survival: "I lived on powdered potato and tuna"

MBowman

A Victorian man at the centre of this week's mammoth rescue effort is relieved to be alive.

Michael Bowman has addressed a press pack in Hobart after being airlifted from the Mt Cuvier area.

He survived around 10 days in his tent on little more than melted snow, powdered potato and tuna.

The experienced hiker described the conditions as horrendous, admitting they came as a surprise at a fairly low altitude.

It was just unrelenting, not the falling snow but more the wind blowing snow , it was like blizzard conditions which is covering the tent up. Earlier I had a pan and even my hands just to scoop the snow away. In the end it just got that bad that the tent was covered and there was probably metre, metre and a half of snow at the back of the tent."

The 57-year-old says it was a frightening experience waiting in snow, and wild wind hoping rescue crews would see him.

"I was just waving around like a windmill, just jumping up and down, hoping they'll see me. They turned around towards me and I saw the red and blue lights and I just thought this is the happiest day of my life," he said.

MBowman2

Mr Bowman, an experienced hiker, had set out on a solo bushwalk in the Lake St Clair region earlier this month.

He set up camp at Mt Cuvier to do day walks in the area but things went awry on a trip to nearby Coal Hill.

He lost his pack and spent a night in the cold before retracing his steps to his tent.

"For some silly reason, I put my pack down because I dropped my tripod, I thought I couldn't go too far from the pack otherwise I wouldn't find it. The scrub was thick where I was. I went back to where I thought my pack was but I couldn't find it."

He says he spent about three hours in the dark trying to find his pack.

Mr Bowman knew it was going to rain during the night so found a rock and slept underneath it, fortunately staying dry.

"While it was freezing cold, I was dry."

In the morning, he spent about an hour looking for his pack.

"I still couldn't find it so I traced by steps back to the tent. I had walked in that area a few times before, so I thought I would be able to find my tent," he said.

It took two hours to locate his tent, where he stayed for ten days.

"I had no radio with me, I couldn't tell what the time was, I couldn't cook because my burner was in the pack."

He believes he wouldn't have lasted another day after getting wet in the entombed tent.

"I got wet towards the end because it was raining on Sunday and Monday. I knew if I wasn't found I probably wouldn't have lasted another night. I had to put orange rubbish bags on the top of my tent to keep the water out."

However he acknowledges staying put in his tent gave him the best change of survival.

"That was the hardest part. You're continually thinking 'if I had have done this, I had have done that'," he said.

"My father is going through a bad time and for me to be up there at that time and then for this to happen, you know you're alright but they don't know what's going on."

"I just said I'm never going to give up. If I die in the tent, I die in the tent. At least they're going to find my body," he said.

Mr Bowman survived by eating small bits of frozen food and drinking melted ice but the first thing he ate in the helicopter was a Snickers chocolate bar.

"I was that happy. I would have crawled," he said of meeting the rescue crew.

"Physically I was okay other than being a bit weak but I probably could afford to lose a bit of weight so it didn't matter," he said.


Images: Rescued bushwalker Michael Bowman and again with flight paramedic Andy Summers. (Alex Jackson)