Kiwi branded 'no hero' for crocodile stunt

Last updated 20:18 03/09/2013
Fairfax Australia

Don MacLeod, talks to 2UE about the life saving rescue of a NZ kayaker trapped on a remote island by a huge crocodile.

Ryan Blair
Nine News
Ryan Blair was held hostage by a crocodile.

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A New Zealand man who put himself on a small island in crocodile-infested waters has been branded "an idiot" and "no hero".

North Kimberly residents have said Ryan Blair could have placed locals' lives in danger.

Drysdale River Station manager Anne Koeyers said her neighbours have reacted angrily to Blair's choice to be placed on West Governor Island, 50 kilometres north of Kalumburu, with 160 litres of water, food and camping equipment then stalked by a crocodile which prevented him from leaving the island.

"Everyone's treating him like he's a hero," Koeyers told Fairfax Media.

"He's not a hero, he's an idiot."

Koeyers, a friend of rescuer Don MacLeod, said Blair, a New Zealander living in Melbourne, was extremely lucky he was found.

"The guy should not have been where he was in the first place. Any of the locals will tell you.

"It's so bloody dumb.

"You could sit on that island for a day, a week, a month and not have anyone come along and see you. I'm surprised Don saw him."

Blair's water began to run low after two-and-a-half weeks and his attempts to paddle to the mainland in his kayak were thwarted by a crocodile which, he said, lurked nearby.

"Four kilometres to the mainland isn't that far but it is when you have a croc bigger than your canoe," Koeyers said.

She shared residents' concerns that Blair's actions could attract other adventure seekers who were not prepared for the harsh realities of the North Kimberley environment.

"These people have no consideration for people out here who are going to have to come and save their backsides," she said.

"Learn about the area. Learn about the dangers. Learn about what to do. Know the water. There's crocs in there. How could anyone not know that?

"Most of the time you're reasonably safe [in a boat] but in a canoe, you might as well be in the water.

"Don't come up here in your canoe. Anyone with quarter of a brain would know there are crocs up here."

Drysdale River Station sits between Broome and Wyndham and is approximately 250 kilometres from Kalumburu where Blair was taken after being rescued by MacLeod.

Koeyers and other residents expressed their surprise at how little prepared Blair was and the quantity of water taken for his stay on the island.

"You can catch a fish or a crab to eat but you need fresh water [to survive].

Blair admits that he was "hard-core praying to God to save me" when he found himself trapped on the island.

And with a six-metre saltwater crocodile keeping him captive for two weeks on a tiny island in the Timor Sea, it's easy to see why.

The 37-year-old New Zealander was already facing a dire predicament when he realised he did not have enough supplies to sustain him on the isolated Governor Islands, off the northern tip of Western Australia where he had set up camp alone.

But when he decided to strike out for the mainland in his 2.5-metre kayak to replenish his supplies, the Kiwi immediately saw the hulking form of a crocodile stalking him in the water.

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"He was about four metres away from me and I thought: 'This is it'," Blair said.

"It was so close, and if this croc wanted to take me it would not have been an issue.

"I was scared for my life - I was hard-core praying for God to save me."

For two weeks Blair remained a hostage on the island, the animal thwarting his every move to paddle the four kilometres to the mainland.

His situation was becoming increasingly perilous when local MacLeod, who is "just about getting on to 70" and lives in an isolated camp about an hour's boat ride away, spotted something shimmering on the island from his boat.

MacLeod knew no one lived on the island. He decided to make a four-kilometre diversion to the island and investigate what it was.

He didn't expect to see a hatless, shirtless and desperate man emerge from the bush when he pulled up on the shore.

"Ryan came out of the scrub and told me that he was on his last legs basically, he was out of water and he wasn't game to try to get across to the mainland, having been turned back by this crocodile that lives there," MacLeod told radio station 2UE.

"I've seen him plenty of times. A very large crocodile," said MacLeod.

So desperate was Blair to leave the island that he asked MacLeod to take him on his boat immediately, abandoning his kayak and camping supplies.

"He had a knapsack, so I got him on board and gave him a beer, which probably wasn't a wise thing in hindsight,"  MacLeod said.

"He sort of started unleashing all his woes and he took a while to settle down and he sort of went off to sleep as I was coming back around to the camp, about another hour away."

He said Blair's attitude changed a little later, however, and he wanted his belongings back. MacLeod took him back to retrieve them from the island, despite petrol costing "four bucks a litre out here".

MacLeod likened Blair's trip to a suicide mission.

"On your own, you may as well go and commit suicide. A crocodile will pick you up," he said.

"Crocodiles are like us, size does matter, so if you're a big, long shape they're less likely to have a go at you, but if you're on something short they will definitely have a go at you.

"This guy was definitely going to get taken sooner or later, because it was evening when he did get startled and was driven back to the rocks. He didn't get it [the kayak] to his camp, he just pulled the kayak up onto the rocks and left it there up above the high water mark and skedaddled back to his camp. He won't do that again. That cured him of everything I think."

Blair's passage to Western Australia was not easy in itself.

He travelled from Queensland to the Kimberley on a yacht whose owner was then jailed in the Northern Territory, leaving Blair stranded for two months.

After hitching a lift with a solo yachtsman from the Northern Territory to WA, he was dropped on the Governor Islands with 160 litres of water, some flour and dry stores.

But after realising he was unprepared for the wilderness, three attempts to reach the mainland were thwarted by the massive crocodile.

MacLeod has lived in the area for the past 12 years and said he has rescued people from crocodiles "more than once".

It comes with living off-the-grid in the West Australian wilderness, where it can take him four hours in his boat to reach the nearest landing.

"I haven't voted since I've been out here, 12 years. It's just impossible for me to do anything," he said, adding that he wasn't concerned about receiving a fine for not voting this weekend.

"I'm not worth getting now, just about getting on to 70. I don't care any more."

- Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today and AAP

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