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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

We don’t reckon anyone sets out to be the next Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks in Cast Away but if you do perhaps happen to find yourself stranded on a tropical island you should probably brush up on a few life-saving skills like foraging and shelter building.

Paul Hart knows a few things about surviving in some of the worlds’ most unforgiving landscapes. Adventurer and survival expert, Paul’s a former Lieutenant Commander with the Royal Navy, has served with the Royal Marines and the Paratroopers and led expeditions in the world’s toughest environments.

He divulged his secrets for surviving on a desert island to The Telegraph and we’ve summarised his points here. Because who knows what could happen the next time you board Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles.

Tip 1: Be positive and optimistic

A positive and optimistic frame of mind can be the difference between life and death. There are many examples where people with no survival experience have managed to remain alive for extremely long periods before being rescued. Adaptability, calmness and clear thinking have all been instrumental in helping them get through the ordeal.

Tip 2: Avoid injury

After you remove your self from immediate danger (like the plane that you just crash-landed in), deal with any injuries you have as quickly as possible. Avoiding any further injuries is prudent because even minor scrapes and cuts can become septic and end in gangrene! On a tropical island, footwear is essential to avoid cutting your feet on sharp coral or “cone shells.”


Tip 3: Salvage what you can

A crashed boat or plane often has plenty of useful items that can help you build a shelter, make a bed, clothes and even footwear. It’s all about creativity and ingenuity how you can make things work in your particular circumstance. A knife, axe and hammer will all be important tools for your survival.

Tip 4: Find a source of water

Water is crucial. If you go even a couple days without water you will die but desert islands tend to have plenty of fresh water sources, hurray! Smaller streams flowing into the sea are better because they carry less silt. Caves are also good sources for water and of course thunderstorms… as long as you have enough buckets/vessels to collect water in.


Tip 5: Build a shelter

Even if stranded on a desert island, hypothermia is a real threat if thunderstorms are frequent. Shelter is vital and it’s important to sleep off the ground to avoid snakes. A clearing and a fire will also help keep the snakes away. If you can manage to find something to act as a mosquito net like a bed sheet or similar then you’ll sleep much more soundly with fewer bites.

Tip 6: Forage food

Luckily desert islands are very rich in food sources. In the water you can find it all from molluscs, oysters, mussels, seaweed, fish, etc. A general rule: if they are hard to dislodge and open then they are usually healthy. If they come off easily then it means they are probably diseased so avoid. Always cook your food to kill any parasites. Tidal pools are perfect places to trap fish when the tide recedes.

If you can manage these then you’re well on your way to surviving on a desert island. It’s all about common sense, being adaptable and keeping your mind both focused and positive. Help will come!

Imgs: USFWS Pacific / Flickr cc.

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