Wilderness Survival Essay, Research Paper
Human beings are born with numerous natural instincts; yet, none is as basic as the instinct of survival. Humans are born to live and consequently they are born with the ability to survive. If one can find food, shelter, and water then one can survive in the wilderness. However, should one find themselves lacking one of these four components, one will not survive unless the void is compensated.
It is a simple fact that if one does not eat then one will not live. However, finding food is much more complicated than it seems. The methods for finding and getting hold of wild food in a particular kind of country usually require detailed local knowledge (Bridge 270). Unfortunately, when in a survival situation detailed knowledge of an area and it s edible plants is not always an asset. In addition, it is rare for one to have a fishing pole or any kind of hunting equipment. Thus, one might find oneself literally up the proverbial creek without a paddle. However, there are a few tips for finding foods and a few well-known plants that are edible. First of all, one must take advantage of one s location. When a couple of Maurice and Maralyn Bailey were stuck on a raft for 117 days in the Pacific Ocean they took advantage of the ocean s fish and turtles. Despite how gruesome they found killing turtles to be, they were driven by hunger and realized that extreme times called for extreme measures (Bailey 62). Unfortunately, it is harder to catch animals on land and thus one must find edible plants. Among the well-known edible plants are blackberries, black walnuts, cattail, daylily buds, hickory nuts, acorns, and morning glory leaves (Edible). However, it is often difficult to discern these edible plants from their poisonous peers. There is an ediblity test one can use when faced with this situation. One must simply take a plant and rub it on a sensitive part of your body, the inside of the wrist for example, and wait five minutes. If there isn t any adverse effect then one should chew a very small amount of the plant for five minutes and see if there is any adverse effect. If, after this, one still feels fine then swallow the plant and wait eight hours. If one is still feeling okay then eat a small handful and wait another eight hours. If nothing happens then it is okay for one to eat the plant sparingly.
Some other tips for finding edible food include avoiding all plants with white sap, tiny hairs, umbrella shaped flowers and white or green berries. In addition, one should stay away from mushrooms and fungi, plants with bulb roots and fruits from plants with shiny leaves. Aggregate berries such as raspberries are always edible, as are single fruits on a stem. With this information one can find food and pass step one of surviving. However, it is very important that if a water source is not available one should not eat because water is required for digestion (Equipped).
Step two to surviving is finding shelter. Maurice and Maralyn did not have an adequate shelter, but they had a raft and were lucky enough to have clothes and be in a warm area (Bailey 48). Exposure to heat or cold can result in death in only three hours. Consequently, finding a shelter or constructing one out of the resources around you is vital. One example of this is the married couple and their young child found themselves stranded in a snow bank. Before going out to seek help the man built his wife and child a cave in the snow. Without this cave, the man s family would have almost certainly died (Survival). Regardless of the scenario, a shelter is needed and should be constructed in a safe environment. One should avoid camping in meadows because of the mosquitoes and one should be cautious of animal shelters. A simple shelter, called the Tube Tent, can be built out of some rope and a sheet of plastic. However, Tube Tents do not provide very sufficient shelter (Hart 44). Shelters can also be constructed out of tarps, tree branches, and snow. It is unfortunate that humans have destroyed so much nature because they have made it harder for one to survive by ruining trees and creating paths and destroying natural shelters. It is rare than an overhanging rock that serves as a good shelter is even capable of being found these days (Bridge 174).
Perhaps the most important asset for survival is water. One cannot survive for more than three days without water and there is no substitute for it. It is imperative that when driven by thirst one does not drink seawater, blood, or urine. These fluids will only hasten dehydration (Survival). In addition, one must know that thirst itself is not good indicator of hydration levels. One can be dehydrated and lack thirst. Dark colored urine is the most reliable indication of significant dehydration (Equipped). There are many tips to finding water, but one should not push oneself. Rationing sweat is just as important as rationing water. One can find water by collecting dew or melting snow. One should avoid eating unmelted snow because it lowers one body temperature. Follow animal tracks downhill; they might lead to a watering hole. Also, if one finds oneself in an arid area, one should dig to find water. Even in a desert one can find water. Simply dig a hole in the sand, covering and suspending a plastic bag into it and collecting water, which condense in the plastic container at the bottom. If worst comes to worst, one should not avoid drinking water that might be contaminated. An intestinal problem is much friendlier when contrasted with death (Equipped).
With food, shelter and fire one can survive in the wilderness. Yet, in order to find these things one must try to maintain a positive mental attitude (Equipped). If one find oneself in a survival situation, one must prioritize: water then shelter then food. Never give up. As easy as giving up might seem when faced with death and lacking hope, one must keep on trying and one must think. Don t waste energy by doing before thinking. One must not panic. The Bailey s survived for one hundred and seventeen days on the ocean. The sinking of their boat was a complete fluke, but their survival was no accident (Bailey). The courage, the resolution, the self discipline, and the endurance of the Bailey s is what kept them sane, but it was the food, the shelter, and the water that kept them breathing.
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Hart, John. Hiking Softly in the Wilderness. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977.
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