In sub-zero temperatures he listened for even the faintest of sounds. Was that scratching, or tapping, could that be a person trapped beneath tonnes of rubble?
Stuart Willick was looking for life amid the utter devastation of an earthquake that rocked Turkey on February 6, 2023, and conditions were harsh.
Everywhere he looked, buildings had pancaked. Those who survived were terrified to go back inside in case another quake struck and they were killed. So, rather than risk death, again, they slept outside in the freezing weather.
In the days that followed, thousands of aftershocks rumbled across the region.
Wollongong's Mr Willick is an urban search and rescue (USAR) firefighter, and it's not for the faint-hearted. You can be deployed anywhere across the world, and often at a moment's notice.
What you're being sent to is the worst day imaginable for many people - there's destruction and often mass casualties, but you've got to put aside the emotion, at least for a little while, and do the job.
Mr Willick was part of a 72-person team of rescue personnel sent to Antakya in Turkey in the aftermath of the quake. It's a densely-populated area with a population of more than 430,000 people.
They brought everything they needed to the disaster zone, 27 tonnes of rescue gear, food, tents and water, the only things they can't bring are vehicles and fuel.
"Approximately 94 different countries provided support during the earthquake," he said.
Some performed search and rescue duties, others brought dogs to look for live and deceased victims.
As rescuers searched the tremors continued every single day.
"On our last night before we came home, we had a 6.4 magnitude earthquake," he said.
While he was there someone thought they had a "hit". For those in this field of work, it means a potential survivor.
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"The dog was there barking and they thought there may have been a live victim still," Mr Willick said.
"It's a nine-storey building that is now flattened down to the level of a pile of rubble, one storey high.
"You're trying to hear signs of life."
Acoustic hearing devices were set up on the concrete.
"It's an acoustic transducer, like on a boat, you place them on the concrete or around and if somebody's tapping, it'll hear the beat," Mr Willick said. "You're hoping, willing and hoping."
He always retained hope during his 10-day deployment, it's vital to get you through the long hours and often heartbreaking work.
"There were so many families around who survived, they're hoping that the rescue crews are coming in, and they're hoping that they're relatives are alive," he said.
"It was quite devastating to see."
Unfortunately, he said, his team wasn't able to pull anyone out alive from the rubble.
"We did assist in the repatriation of quite a few bodies from out of the rubble," he said.
"While it's not a very pleasant thing to do, it's very heartening to see the love and respect that the members of the family had, and they respected us that we treated the deceased with respect and care."
After each deceased victim was removed from the rubble, rescuers would pause and there would be a prayer for the person.
"It was very hard because quite often it was not just one victim, you could have the whole family," he said.
Six months on since his deployment what he saw and had to do is still very fresh in his mind, and in his dreams. Like many who were there, he's chatted to professionals about it, but he's doing ok.
"I'm a practical type of person, I just love to get there and help. I'm good at hands-on things," he said. "I'm an electrician by trade and I can utilise my skills to do a little bit of good."
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