Being castaway is probably most people’s idea of the worst possible nightmare scenario, but others might crave that solitary existence. The fact of the matter is that fending for yourself is likely to be tough unless you’re a very well prepared castaway, finding your desert island to call home. It’s possibly the most extreme example of a Prepper’s ultimate goal, to be able to start from scratch and build up to a fully self sufficient life. It’s a bit of a contradiction in a way, as a castaway will likely not be able to prepare any physical items, however the skills to survive will often apply to many survival situations.
Mankind has made a remarkable advancement. We have huge commercial supply chains circumnavigating the world, we can take a short hour trip to the grocery store to feed our families for an entire week, and visit a physician who is able to cure most common ailments with a simple examination and where required, course of medication. There’s a downside to all of this, though, and that’s partly the destruction that our path to superiority on planet earth has taken, but more importantly a sinister greed which may eventually cause use to breed our own downfall.
How many people do you know that would know what to do if the global supply chain failed, causing the shelves to become empty and water supplies to become undrinkable? What if an unexpected natural disaster strikes and demolishes our homes, and everything for many miles in its path? We’re used to seeing this level of destruction on the news, and sometimes it does touch us in America. However, we rarely see anything that causes long term destruction and cuts off our path to food and medical assistance, and the federal agencies are able to quickly respond. But what if that was no longer the case? What if you had to feed your family when there was no grocery store? Today, let’s take a look at those skills, but rather than look at being near home, let’s revisit that castaway example.
We need to look at three key areas for survival in a desert island context, and assume that there is nothing available but the very land we arrive on, and whatever has naturally grown there, away from farming, commerce and human advancement.
Let’s start with the obvious requirement for castaway survival, finding something to eat. It’s said that without food, you can survive for a couple of weeks, but without water, as little as a couple of days. Someone always pops up and points out that the sea was your path to the island and that’s full of water, but that’s going to make matters worse rather than better. The salt content will soon lead to dehydration, so in almost every case, you’re better off thirsty than drinking seawater.
Depending how you arrived on the island, you might consider yourself lucky if you’re the sole survivor of a plane crash, as the airliner will likely have been carrying food and water which may be salvageable if the wreckage is accessible. That’s a long shot though, so you’re more likely to benefit from searching the terrain of your new home for plant life, especially those bearing fruits for food and salt free water sources.
If you’re lucky enough to find water, perhaps a pond or other rain filled supply, try to collect water into a container without disturbing the area too much. In general, the water will be cleaner if undisturbed, as many of the impurities will have sunk to the bottom. Unless you’ve got some purification skills, that’s not to say it’s going to be clean and safe though, you’ll want to be making an effort to boil any water before you drink it, to reduce the chances of nasty side effects dramatically. That brings us nicely to our second area…
During the day, your idyllic island might be washed in warm sunshine, with a greater risk of sunburn that the cold. However, once night falls, most places on the planet get rather chilly, and in many cases, freezing. You might be lucky and have reached isolation in the summer months, but sooner or later you’re going to need to have the skills to make fire.
It’s actually about a lot more that warmth, it will provide you with the means to boil water, cook meat if there are animals like chickens or fish to capture, provide light in the pitch black nights and even signal to passing aircraft or boats that you need rescuing!
Those are all important outcomes of developing the ability to start a fire, but how exactly do you go about lighting one. Let’s assume you’ve not got a cigarette lighter or box of matches to hand, so it’s going to fall back to the cliche of rubbing sticks together. Initially, you’re going to find this hard work, but it’s actually one of those tasks that’s as much about technique as it is about persistence. In a way, that’s good news, but it’s no help when you’re on your first attempt, darkness is falling and you’re starting to feel cold. That’s why you’ll find a lot of prepper’s are already very competent at getting a fire going, after all – it’s a technique that’s useful for many survival situations – not limited to a desert island!
Getting Cover With A Shelter
Our final area is the need for shelter. A lot of us would struggle to build a waterproof canopy that’s any match for the wind with a full compliment of power tools and near unlimited supplies of wood. If you’re on your own without tools or materials, the difficulty level is even greater, then. In fact even if you’ve fallen victim to storm damage at home, these skills are very useful, as you may have no power to use your tools, even if you have them to hand. Back to our island though, you may still see snow and torrential rain even in the world’s most attractive climates. Shelters at the very least should give you protection from rain, and over time they’ll need to help you trap warmth and keep your ever growing set of possessions you’ve created in good condition.
That’s a quick run down of three main things to think about so that you’re prepared for survival situations. Of course, survivalists develop these skill sets for much more than the remote possibility of finding yourself a castaway needing to survive on a desert island, they’re equally useful in normal day to day life. Being able to patch up a roof and make it watertight, light a barbecue at the campground when you’ve left the matches at home, or teach the kids about the food chain – all of these are exciting and important life skills that will inevitably come in useful from time to time as you go about your normal life. Then maybe, just maybe, it’s you’re life they’ll save one day!