LITTLE did Michael Gregory know when he studied Marine Studies at St Augustine’s College, Cairns, that it would help save his life and the life of a neighbour.
His parents’ friend Tony had taken Michael fishing but after their boat overturned they were stranded 60km off the coast of Innisfail with no land in sight and their mobile phones at the bottom of the ocean.
While hanging on to the hull sizing up their predicament, Michael knew exactly what to do to get help.
Tony, who owned the boat, retrieved the life jackets and flares and felt safe in the knowledge that the emergency beacon, still in the boat’s submerged cabin, was activated.
“He was under the impression the emergency beacon activates when it’s fully submerged in water, and while some aviation beacons do, I knew it wouldn’t be the case, because of the Marine Studies program at Saints (in Years 11 and 12),” Michael said.
“If I hadn’t have done the course I wouldn’t have known any better, and we might still be sitting out there!
“Eventually I plucked up the courage to retrieve the EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) from the airless cabin and activate it.
“The course also taught me how to set off the flares, which I did, and operate the radio when talking to emergency services once we had been rescued, to turn back the chopper.
“I’m so glad I took (the course).”
Once Michael activated the emergency beacon, they waited a few hours before the emergency rescue helicopter arrived.
Just as it appeared, they were plucked from the water by another boat, which had been alerted through a chain of phone calls resulting from the EPIRB activation.
Marine Studies at St Augustine’s College is one of the many and varied electives offered in Catholic secondary schools in Cairns diocese.
A Cairns Catholic Education Services spokesman said students had access to a range of programs designed to stimulate their interest and involvement including science programs such as Mythbusters and Forensics, Studies of Society and Environment programs like Ancient Mysteries and Making Money, and heath and education programs like Outdoor Pursuits and Technology in Sport.
The list is long and varied and offers students great opportunities to sample subjects.
One of newest electives in Cairns diocese is certification in fitness.
The CES spokesman said schools such as Good Counsel Secondary, in Innisfail, and St Mary’s Catholic College Woree, were offering these programs in response to growing trends.
They said secondary students could explore subjects like digital photography, cooking, multimedia, design, fashion, dance, languages, outdoor pursuits and math to help them decide if that was an interest they would like to pursue.
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