In May 2017 a chopper pilot was flying over a remote stretch of coastline in Western Australia when he spotted a sign made up of rocks: it was the international distress code, “SOS.” But was it the work of some pranksters, or was it a genuine call for help?
The site, after all, was extremely inaccessible. Swift Bay on Australia’s northwest coast is 620 miles from the nearest city, Broome. The nearest human habitation, meanwhile, is the Kalumburu Aboriginal Community, 75 miles east. Without a boat, a helicopter or a sturdy four-wheel-drive, getting in and out of Swift Bay is, then, a considerable challenge.
What’s more, the bay’s fierce climate – which alternates between tropical wet and dry seasons – makes it an extremely dangerous place in which to be stranded. Temperatures in the region can reach blistering highs of 112 °F in the summer. Further environmental hazards include heavy rain and cyclones.