A BRITISH backpacker who survived three days in the Australian Outback drinking contact lens fluid and urine has described how his life was saved by a pair of old rugby shorts.
Sam Woodhead, 18, disappeared from a remote station near Longreach in Queensland last Tuesday after he set out for a walk about 4.30pm.
He was found on Friday afternoon after enduring three days in dense woodland, with little supply of water and temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celcius.
Mr Woodhead has sold his story of the ordeal to the Mail on Sunday with the proceeds going back to the organisations involved in his rescue.
He told the Mail on Sunday how he took off his clothes to make an SOS sign on the ground, however two helicopters which flew overhead on Friday morning failed to see the sign.
About 2.30pm local time another helicopter passed over and appeared to have missed him once again, however it soon turned around and collected an exhausted Woodhead.
"I asked the pilot afterwards and he said, 'the only reason we turned around was because we saw something fly up from the ground'.
It was a pair of my white rugby shorts that I used in the SOS sign," Woodhead told the Mail on Sunday.
"The crew had flown over and hadn't noticed the sign, but they were so low their rotors blew my shorts up into the air and that was what they saw. That was the reason why they turned around."
The crew told him the helicopter had only 15 minutes of fuel remaining.
Woodhead was taken to a hospital in Longreach, suffering from kidney damage and having lost about 12kg.
Doctors told him his hydration levels were so low he would not have survived for more than a few hours, the Mail on Sunday reported.
Woodhead told the paper he hoped to attend Sandhurst next year to become an army officer. He had set out for a walk from the ranch in Vergemont where he had been working, carrying a heavy backpack as training.
However he lost his bearings and could not make his way back to the ranch, although throughout the ordeal he was never more than about 8-9km away.
With only a litre of water, he told the paper how he survived on sachets of contact lens saline solution, and even tried drinking his own urine.
"I tried to drink it and took a glug. It was like the contact lens solution but ten times worse. I had to drink about three of the contact lens sachets afterwards just to get rid of the taste."
Although Woodhead was concerned the salt content in the saline solution could have done more harm than good, he believes drinking the fluid was what kept him alive.
Detective Sergeant Dave Perry told the paper he was astonished Woodhead survived three days with no water.
"He would have been dead by Saturday if we hadn't found him."