BENSON LAKE, B.C. - An 84-year-old man survived four days trapped inside a dry well by soaking up moisture with a tissue and sucking on it - and keeping his sense of humour intact despite his ordeal.

Bob Bennett had been walking on his property, in the remote Northern Vancouver Island community of Benson Lake, where he was looking for a well that he fell into, said his friend Barry Christenson.

"It wasn't the Hilton," laughed Christenson, who alerted police to Bennett's disappearance.

"He stepped on the wooden cover and it basically disintegrated under him and he fell in and couldn't get out."

Christenson, who lives in nearby Port Hardy, sometimes doesn't see his longtime friend for weeks at a time, but Bennett told him earlier that he would be in town within a few days.

"So this just didn't sit right with me that he hadn't shown up."

Christenson went to Bennett's home where the elderly man lives alone with his dog.

He found a hungry dog and nothing else that indicated his friend planned on taking a trip.

Police began their search Wednesday on the sprawling property located on an old mining site.

Later that afternoon, a police dog followed Bennett's scent and took his handler to the side of a mountain and the 2 1/2-metre-deep dry well shaft.

Officers spotted Bennett's legs and at first thought he may have been dead, but then the man started talking. And cracking jokes.

"When we were getting ready to take him out of there, he's going, 'No, no, no,"' Christenson said. "He said 'I just put some soup on and make myself a sandwich, I'll be fine."'

While Bennett insisted he was OK, Christenson said the elderly man had lost quite a bit of weight and was dehydrated and needed to go to hospital.

"He was in good spirits, figuring everybody's making too big a fuss over him."

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