Our first lesson is to learn about nature, knowing its demands and moods. We must learn to live in harmony with nature and never fight it. Knowing what time first light is, the phase of the moon, and what direction the prevailing wind blows, will all benefit us in an emergency. Being able to predict the weather will help us make the correct decision whether to carry on or seek shelter. It’s always good to know the time of high tide if located by the sea, and know the height difference between high and low tide. Rivers can be tidal, and knowing how far it goes up river will help you negotiate this obstacle. Understanding water sheds will help navigation. Water collects on high ground to run off in small streams, this collection point is called a water shed. As water runs down the high ground it joins other sources, forming streams that eventually run in a set direction. This shapes the land, forming ridges and spurs. The direction of these streams will help you determine which side of the feature you are on. In mountainous/hilly country, keeping to the spurs and ridges is the best route to navigate by. Well defined tracks either man or animal made, follow these routes.
Learning to recognise trees, shrubs, and plants will be beneficial, and interpret ting animal tracks and signs will greatly assist you in a survival situation. Recognising hardwood from soft wood, knowing which specie burns the best, and which makes the best tinder will improve your fire lighting. So armed with as much info as possible we now need to know the bodies requirements. Basically an average person can go 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food, with no lasting effects afterwards, they can be nursed back to full health. All of these times can be contradicted and its good to know what man has endured. A man survived for 20 minutes trapped under ice. A reflex which we are born with (mammalian reflex) trapped air in his brain, and he was successfully resuscitated with no brain damage. A man survived without food for 58 days. He wasn’t able to wrestle bears but he survived. A guy in the desert went 8 days without water. He was found unconscious but was successfully hydrated. He is now dependent on supportive medicine, but survived.. I use these cases to illustrate the resolve of man. We are all of the same species, and what they achieved we can. It’s all down to the WILL TO LIVE.
The WTL is a basic instinct that we are born with It is getting weaker as we become more civilized and dependent on comfort. Call it self preservation, but basically it means never giving in. I tell people that we are never subjected to anything that we cannot deal with. It won’t be pleasant but as long as we have this burning desire to live and never give in we will survive. This is the firm foundation that we build our pyramid of learning on. The Will To Live is the firm foundation, with knowledge above this, topped off with kit and equipment. Try to learn something new everyday and have a thirst for knowledge. Be inquisitive and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Keep the kit and equipment to a minimum. With experience you soon get to know what is essential and what is surplus. Remember you can have all the knowledge and kit in the world, but without the Will To Live, can still perish in a tight situation. Everyone has loved ones and don’t want to let them down. Some people find strength in religion, and to a lesser degree revenge helps strengthen the Will To Live. For what ever reason be determined and don’t give in.
Develop a strong mental outlook instead of a passive one. Don’t be one of them that say, ‘this will never happen to me’, everyone is at risk. With knowledge we can survive anywhere on earth. These include the extremes of the Artic, and Antarctic. The heat of the desert and the dangers of a tropical rain forest. The hardest places to survive are the cold areas especially at altitude. Man is a tropical animal and can only survive as born in the tropics. The moment we leave this environment we must provide a tropical climate by wearing clothes. Most creatures migrate in the winter to warmer climes leaving the extremes cold barren places. What we must learn is food, fire, shelter, water, navigation, and medical. Regardless where we are in the world the order of priority of these six elements is the same. We use the acronym PLAN
P is for PROTECTION… First we need protection from further danger. We must get out of the way of impending avalanches, forest fire, or any life threatening risks. Then we need PROTECTION from the elements. Rain and wind in this country, the cold in the Artic, the heat in the desert, and disease in the jungle. So we construct a shelter that will give us this. Fire is part of the shelter. Boiling water will give us protection from disease, and help keep flies and wild animals away.Once we are comfortable we can start relaxing and taking stock of the situation. Although the desire to sleep will be very strong we must implement L which stands for LOCATION. We want to be found and rescued at the earliest opportunity. So put out signals like SOS, and prepare a signal fire. Always book in and book out with the authorities when on an adventure. Stick to the route and you should be found soon after reported missing. However because of bad weather or loss of a compass, or just bad map reading, you may be far away from the search area. Always stay at the site of the incident as long as it is safe to do so. This way the wreckage can be utilized, and is a bigger signature on the ground that the rescuers can find. Also you may well have injured people that cannot be moved. Pool resources, call the role and nominate individuals to different tasks like collecting fire wood, tending the fire, or constructing signals.
A stands for ACQUISITION of water and food. We forage in the local area for anything that will supplement our survival rations. Water is most precious and supports all forms of life. We need to know how to make our water safe to drink, either by boiling or adding chemicals. We also need to know what we can and cannot eat. The nutritional ladder is plants, fungi, insects, fish, and game. Plants are just a matter of identifying and gathering. Where as to trap game takes a great deal of skill. Insects are an excellent source of fat and protein and easy to gather. Worms’s slugs and snails don’t sound very appetising but to a starving person offer a life line. There is an edibility test for plants but with fungi it must be positive recognition. If you are not sure leave them alone. Some are deadly and many cause serious medical problems.
N stands for NAVIGATION. After maybe three weeks if you are still not rescued, the chances are that the search has been called off. No matter how well you practice good camp and personal hygiene the area will become soiled. All the local game has either been caught or scared away, and you have to go further a field to find fire wood. This is the time to decide to move. Survival navigation is the art of maintaining a direction without the aid of map or compass. You can use the sun and wind by day, and the stars and moon at night. Medical knowledge is never wasted and a good understanding of the body and knowing how to diagnose and treat illness a real bonus. Look after yourself and monitor other members of your group, identify unusual behaviour and recognise the early symptoms of hypo and hyperthermia. If you are feeling rough it’s a fair bet that other members of the group are experiencing the same.
The next article will deal with water and food in more detail.