Among the rough waters and sheer coastal cliffs of the Australian coastline, search and rescue services, from Perth to Byron Bay, are often obliged to rescue stranded people off of seaside cliff. This specialised form of rescue demands a number of particular skills, which set these rescues apart from others.
The history of such rescues has a proud tradition in Australian history. When the Dunbar struck the rocks of the Gap in Sydney, south of the harbour entrance, it was presumed that not one soul was spared as the ship broke up along the coastline. However, Sydney was, at that time, home to a young jeweller’s apprentive, who at 17, quickly made a name for himself. Antonia Wollier, a recent arrival for Iceland and an experienced climber, climbed down the cliff to locate the sole survivor James Johnson, and delivering a rope to pull him to safety.
In many cases, rescues such as this one are the norm for search and rescue services in Perth. The sheer cliffs which mark the shoreline here often stymie efforts of shipwrecked individuals to climb up, requiring some specialised help. Along with sailors, sports climbers and hikers have often needed rescuing, particularly in the high country of Victoria and New South Wales.
Specific training and rescue methods are called up for these circumstances. Ropes must be expertly fixed, and enclosed stretchers are used to ensure the bumpy ride up the cliff face won’t dislodge any passengers. Aircraft must be made aware of the particulars of air currents around these landforms, in particular, due to the inclement weather that often accompanies these rescues. It takes preparation and experience to perform safely here, but it is a vital skill set for our rescue teams.