21.2.2016 | 13:36
Nature is a fickle mistress. A leisurely day trip excursion to a beautiful island can suddenly turn into a real survival situation. Polynesian weather is notorious for changing from clear blue sky to full-on storm in a matter of minutes. Many visitors have found themselves temporarily stranded on one of the thousands of small islands, literally caught with their pants down due to bad weather. It’s always important to bring sufficient supplies on any Oceanic trip, even if you’re only planning on being away for a few hours. Still, it doesn’t matter how well prepared you are when luck turns against you. Studying charts and weather forecasts in addition to packing enough emergency rations and supplies is all well and good. But what happens if you drift off course, the weather suddenly turns and your box of supplies washes overboard? Even worse, what if you accidentally happen to strike a reef in the shallows and your entire boat keels over? You manage to make it on to shore, but now what?
When stuck on an island in the middle of the ocean, you’re odds of making it back to the mainland on your own are more or less non-existent. You’re best hope is to be rescued by a passing vessel, but with all those islands and massive stretches of open water, you may find yourself stuck for some time.
Here are some basic survival tips for anyone unfortunate enough to end up on a deserted island.
Most people in a survival ordeal immediately focus on finding water, but that could be a deadly mistake. In ideal conditions, a person can go three days without drinking a single drop. In humid, tropical conditions, that window diminishes greatly, but you don’t have to worry about water for at least 24 hours. Keeping out of the cold is another matter. Night temperatures out at sea can drop drastically, making the threat of hypothermia a constant concern. A basic shelter, such as a simple lean-to or an A-frame, will keep you safe from wind and rain. Just jam a rough stick or pole between two trees or rocks as your foundation. Add a couple of more sticks as your ceiling and cover them with leaves or vegetation.
This becomes your next priority. Without a steady source of hydration available, you’ll likely to perish within a matter of days. Dying of thirst is said to be one of the most painful deaths imaginable. Cramps, seizures, organ failure and madness are just some of the symptoms of severe dehydration, and a few measly percent of bodily fluids lost are enough to compromise your physical and mental abilities. If there’s no source of fresh water to be found, your next best bet is to gather fresh coconuts. Coconut water also contains plenty of nutrients, making it a liquid food source as well. Catching rain water in whatever containers you can fashion is also a good way to keep yourself hydrated.
Fire is life, because it keeps you warm, lights your way in the dark, purifies water, cooks your food, and can be used to signal for rescue. If you don’t have any lighters or emergency flares at hand, there are still multiple ways of starting a fire. Focusing sunlight through your glasses, a camera lens or a piece of broken glass can create an ember. A battery from a flashlight connected by any kind of metal will generate enough heat to create a flame. The last resort is to rub two sticks together. This is probably the most known method of starting fire, but it also happens to be one of the most unreliable, especially in damp conditions. If all else fails, a basic hand-drill kit or a bow-drill is how you best start a fire in the Pacific. Just make sure your materials are dry and that you’re well out of the wind.
Food won’t be a necessary priority for the first couple of days, as you can survive up to three weeks without eating anything. However, a lack of food will seriously diminish your energy levels, your mood and ability to think clearly. Sooner or later, you’ll have to eat something. Coconuts, once again, are your first go-to option. The juicy meat of a fresh coconut can keep you alive for months. Fish and other seafood can in most cases be eaten raw without any issues, should you fail to build a working fire. A stroll along the beach is often all it takes to cover your essential needs. Clams, shellfish, snails, shrimp or crabs won’t get you to three solid meals a day, but it’s way better than starving. Taking in sustenance sucks water out of your system, which is why you should never eat food unless there’s enough liquid around to go with it.
Once your immediate needs are satisfied, only then should you start thinking of ways to signal for rescue. If you have a fire, the solution becomes pretty obvious. Build a signal pyre on the beach, ready to be lit at a moment’s notice if you happen to spot a passing ship. Use dead wood and dry leaves as your foundation with lots of green fire material on top. This will create a thick cloud of smoke that can easily be spotted from miles away. Cutting down three long sticks and placing them upright in the sand is a great way to create a static rescue signal. Tie a piece of bright fabric to each of them in order to maximize visibility. Any reflecting material can be used to create targeted flashes of light.
Stay Calm and Collected
The most important thing to remember is keeping yourself calm. There’s no use in giving into fears and worries, as this will only override your rational thinking and logical reasoning. Make a list of tasks to cover your primary survival needs. This will greatly improve your odds and will keep your mind and body occupied while you’re waiting for rescue. Never lose hope and always keep in mind there are people out searching for you. Keep your wits about you, focus on staying alive for as long as possible, and you’ll most likely make it home in one piece.
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