The cast and crew of Animal Planet’s River Monsters reality show have no doubt seen some bizarre and frightening sights over the years. Nothing, however, could have prepared them for what they were about to find off the shore of a remote Australian island.
To begin with it was just another ordinary shoot for Animal Planet’s River Monsters crew. Lead presenter Jeremy Wade and his cameramen and producers were sailing under the scorching summer heat while filming another episode.
River Monsters tracks down the world’s most dangerous sea creatures before shedding light on their plight in a bid to help save them from extinction. It’s one of Animal Planet’s most successful shows, no doubt because the creatures they discover are so fascinating and so frightening.
This time, however, the crew would find something entirely different. The crew’s unbelievable discovery took place while they were sailing down the waters of Barranyi North Island – part of a remote archipelago some 450 miles southeast of Darwin.
Wade and co. were hoping to find a giant grouper, Queensland’s aquatic emblem and the biggest bony fish in the coral reefs. The species has unfortunately been a victim of over-fishing, meaning the International Union for Conservation of Nature now categorizes it as “vulnerable.”
At first all seemed normal as the five-person crew sailed through dangerous waters habited by crocodiles. But Wade and his team soon realized that something was up.
In the distance the River Monsters team spotted an unusual object bobbing beside the rocky shore – a blue cooler box. It certainly wasn’t an ordinary find for an island thought to be uninhabited.
A couple of the crew members lightheartedly remarked that they might see a bedraggled Tom Hanks – a reference, of course, to 2000 movie Cast Away. As it turned out they weren’t a million miles away.
As the crew tried to work out why there was a cooler here a clearly agitated man, half-naked, emerged from a cave. After waving frantically he jumped into the water and started wading towards the boats.
The crew, no doubt in total shock, were doing their duty by filming the whole thing. Their footage captures a man who’s clearly dehydrated; as soon as he boards the boat he yells for water.
It was sheer coincidence that the crew encountered him – the castaway had only come to this part of the island after seeing some discarded bottles he’d hoped would contain water. The River Monsters team, meanwhile, had only journeyed here after rough seas forced them to change course.
The stranded man had been out in the blistering heat for days without food or water. Contending with 110-degree heat with only a cave for shelter – and without his boat – his immediate future looked bleak.
Had the River Monsters team arrived just a day later he’d likely have been dead – at least according to Wade, who continued doing a piece to camera while the castaway was being rescued. The crew had arrived in the nick of time.
Stephen Shearman, the show’s director, told Inside Edition that the rescued man almost immediately threw up the water and hydration pills given to him. “His body wasn’t ready for that at all,” he explained. “His condition was quite serious.”
The team sent the castaway off to receive proper medical attention, but the burning questions had yet to be answered. What was he doing here? And where did he come from?
As it turned out the castaway, whose name is Tremine, was friends with the TV crew’s guide for the day, Ashley. Both men are from Borroloola, a town of less than 1,000 people in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Tremine, a roofer by trade, is also a keen fisherman. This time, however, he succumbed to the rough conditions after hunting for oysters and, on the way back to his boat, taking a wrong turn.
Tremine, unable to find his way back to his vessel, spent the next 60 hours wandering the island in search of food and water. When his search failed he began preparing himself for the inevitability of death.
With no wife or kids to notice that he hadn’t returned from his journey, Tremine was extremely lucky that the River Monsters crew showed up when they did. “Once he got rehydrated, his strength gained back,” Shearman told Inside Edition. “Apart from a bruised pride, he was back to normal.”
Not everything was the same for Tremine, of course, who promised to be more sensible in future. But he also, strangely, vowed to start smoking again. “If he had a lighter,” Shearman joked, “he’d be able to cook, and he’d have a fire.”