U.S. students survive being lost for 9 days in the New Zealand wilderness

Published On: Tuesday November 27, 2012 11:40 PM
By: David Ross
Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth
Two American students trapped in the wilderness of New Zealand by a snowstorm walked back to safety after surviving the ordeal of nine days by the rationing of scarce supplies of trail mix, and warmed themselves in the hot water springs.

Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth, both 21, returned to the city of Christchurch, on Monday after meeting with members of a search team were starved but otherwise in good condition, police said.

The two students in a program of study abroad in New Zealand with the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, had planned to hike and camp for a few days in a bath in the country's South Island. However, heavy rains and a storm of snow during the southern hemisphere winter prevented the couple from being able to cross a river to get back.

"Unfortunately, it rained and rained, day after day, and it snowed," Alec Brown wrote in an email to the news media Monday.
He said the nights were hard to take, because the rain and hail beat down on the canvas with a hammock they were sleeping in and the raging river all the time reminding them of their situation.
When they realized that they would be trapped they began rationing, "a biscuit and jam one day," Brown wrote, "much less the others."

The mother of Alec Brown, Lisa Brown, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, said she panicked when she discovered that her son had disappeared.
"It's too much for a mother," she told the news media. "Especially when they're so far away. I felt so helpless."

She had faith that Alec, a major in environmental science, knew the outdoors well enough to survive, she said, adding that Erica, who is studying graphic design, is a strong woman.
A search for the couple began June 1.
"They were going to hot springs to relax and study for exams," said Jenkins, adding that she went ahead with her own journey and did not realized the couple were missing until eight days had passed, when the voice of alarm rang.

The couple did not take along much food just some carrots, rice, peanut butter and nuts, according to police Sgt. Sean Judd, which coordinated the rescue attempts. He said that after three days, it began a steady rain.
"Then on Wednesday the snow storm hit and got steadily worse," said Judd.

Brown said that soaking in hot pools "helped keep the heat and energy loss low."

It was not until Sunday, Brown said, the river finally seemed safe enough to cross again.
He and Klintworth ready to walk cooked a "good meal" of rice, marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate, he said.

"Then we left and crossed the icy waters only to our waist," he said. "We were climbing the mountains under dense tree cover, when we first heard the helicopter that we assume was looking for us. The helicopter did not see us and we went on very well and met with the search and rescue team along the way."