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  • Writer's pictureValentine Smith

Footprints in the Wilderness

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Why do any of us feel rejuvenated when we go into a forest, sit on a quiet ocean beach, or even visit an urban park? Is it the counter balance of work and life, with life’s needs something more natural, deep and innate than just an ability to wear the latest joggers or sit on a park bench with a take-away coffee and Ear-Pods?

For some of us our need for a wilderness fix may be satisfied by watching a nature documentary on our 60” smart TV. However, for others it is more extreme, at least from a contemporary perspective. It is perhaps a primeval interpretation of more is good, with the wilderness user better able to understand who they are, to experience the extremes that their body and mind can reveal and to re-connect with themselves before they slide back into urban despair.

Recently I returned from three weeks in Munga-Thirri (The Simpson Desert) where, despite my seventy-two years, from just connecting to the environment I was immediately rejuvenated into a youthful lad. However, re-entering the ‘built up’ disorder of humanity somewhere West of Melbourne I became instantly depressed, a feeling that took about a month to dissipate.

Hikers, hunters, campers, 4WD enthusiasts, environmentalists, back-country climbers, cross-country skiers, walkers and fishers, to name just a few. Amongst their ranks are many who out of necessity work in everything from IT to retail, from the trades to community service. All likely have demanding families, jobs and work colleagues, suburban homes, mortgages, and the need to stay ahead of debt and/or despair, to service the perpetual demand of the modern cooperative.

It is from amongst these ranks, the day-tripper, the weekender or the long-track wanderer, that a small number become lost, missing or disappear, which is a priority focus for us. But, before we examine the tragic cases of the missing, we need to know who are they, what stock or purpose do they come from, who else is out there, what do they think, and what is it that attracts them into the wilderness.

MiPerNet and Enigma P.I have come together to investigate, to better understand ‘what we are looking at’, with our first focus being on the human visitors to the wilderness, who are, of course, the major element in every missing person case. Our initial task is capturing data on two areas close to the two biggest cities in Australia, The Blue Mountains, just 90 kilometres West of Sydney and The Yarra Ranges and the High Country, which start a similar distance East of Melbourne.

Each year there are dozens of rescues for missing, lost, or injured people in the Blue Mountains, similarly in Victoria, the nearby ranges account for many protracted and often massive searches.

Thankfully due to the efforts of many, including the Police and volunteer search and rescue teams, most of the lost and missing are found safe. Sadly, however there are a small number who are not, who are either found seriously injured, deceased, or never seen again.

The ‘Footprints in the Wilderness’ project will capture both qualitative and quantitative data and vital information that will provide knowledge to better understand the wild in all of us, what motivates us, our commonalities, our needs, values and vulnerabilities.

‘Footprints in the Wilderness’ will be reaching many visitor groups to the great outdoors. Our questionnaires are detailed and probing, we want to capture the knowledge and hopefully enlighten decision makers everywhere into better understanding their fellow humans, the wilderness and bush community, and understand the need for wide open and often wild places where we as humans need to go to fine tune our internal engines and balance our lives between what as cooperative creatures we have to do and what as individuals we need to do.

For more information visit or send an inquiry to

If you would like to take part in our quantitative survey please click here

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