Madeleine Nowak and her husband are reunited after she was found on Sunday.
Madeleine Nowak and her husband are reunited after she was found on Sunday.

How hiker, 73, survived three days on Fraser

Hiker Madeleine Nowak has been found alive and well after spending three nights lost in dense scrub on Fraser Island.

The 73-year-old was on Sunday assessed by Fraser Island paramedics for dehydration and exposure but is otherwise well. She was then flown by the rescue helicopter to Hervey Bay Hospital in a stable condition.

Before the flight she and her husband shared an emotional embrace when they were reunited.

Dr Nowak became detached from a group of walkers along the Great Walk around 3pm on Thursday although her travelling companions.

Police and emergency services initiated a frantic search for the missing hiker and she was located Sunday morning.

Madeleine Nowak is reunited with her husband. Picture: Queensland Police
Madeleine Nowak is reunited with her husband. Picture: Queensland Police


Dr Norwak "self-rescued" by heading eastwards, sleeping in a big tree and land clearings, and surviving on a small amount of food and water that she had packed, emergency services said.

LifeFlight Aircrewman Brent Malden said Dr Norwak had become lost on her hike on Thursday after coming across a fallen tree on the walking track.

"Trying to find the track, she couldn't find it, so she's walked for a further 30 minutes. She was unable to find the track and realised at that point that she was lost," he said.

"She's tried to regain her bearings by finding higher ground and realised that the night was closing in at that point so she's found some shelter in a big tree."

Dr Norwak was able to send out a text message to her companions telling them she was safe and would head east.

"She hung her hat on a tree, decided to have something to eat and drink and she decided to have a sleep," Mr Malden said.

"The good thing was that she had the forethought to stay in a visual area, so that she was in an opening every time she decided to stop for a rest.

"For the last few days she has been heading east and this morning she has walked out onto the beach herself and found a campground there and just found some people, got some assistance and gone up to the ranger's office at Eurong."

Madeleine Nowak was found after spending three days missing on Fraser Island. Picture: Queensland Police Service
Madeleine Nowak was found after spending three days missing on Fraser Island. Picture: Queensland Police Service


Dr Norwak enjoyed some marshmallows and crackers while awaiting rescue helicopter transport to Hervey Bay Hospital.

"She was great. She was a lovely person to deal with, she was fit and well, she was a little bit tired and fatigued," Mr Malden said.

"She is extremely grateful to all of the emergency services for their assistance and support and just feels pretty silly that we had to go out and find her.

"It was a fantastic outcome with her walking herself out of the bush all fit and well...and the fact that she was essentially self-rescued."

Police had believed Dr Nowak was missing in the Valley of the Giants - an ancient rainforest where giant satinay trees grow straight from the sand to form a canopy so thick that nearly no light passes through.

It's on the southern half of Fraser Island, surrounding the well-hiked 90km great walk and is where you'll find K'gari's oldest trees.

Nutritionist Dr Nowak is an experienced trail walker and was part of a tour navigating the 90km Fraser Island Great Walk when she is believed to have become lost in an ancient rainforest.

She was part of an organised - but unguided - tour when she became separated from her fellow hikers.

Police were alerted when the 73-year-old failed to make it to a rendezvous point. She managed to send out a text before her phone went flat.

While K'Gari is home to a large population of dingoes, police believed it was likely Dr Nowak became lost in what can be impenetrable rainforest.

Police used heat seeking technology in an effort to find her but were hampered by the amount of animal activity on the island.

Queensland Police - and friends of Dr Nowak - had earlier asked anyone visiting Fraser Island to keep an eye out for the missing woman.

"Maddie, you are a strong, vibrant and resilient person," one friend posted to social media. "You have been an amazing dietitian, friend and support in my practices over the last eight years. You are not ready to retire yet..... you told me that yourself!"

Originally published as How hiker, 73, survived three days on Fraser


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