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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yann Martel's Lost at Sea Survival Tips from His Acclaimed Novel Life of Pi

[Seabgb's Note: The following 15 Survival tips come from author Yann Martel's fictional book Life of Pi, a story about a young Indian boy marooned on a life raft with a cast of zoo animals for over 200 days. It's a philosophical fable, not meant as a serious dissertation on survival at sea. However, there is certain merit in some of these 15 survival tips. I bring them to you here as part of an ongoing discussion on survival techniques that began with the previous post, D'Angelo's first hand account of his experience surviving the sinking of the M/S/ Explorer. My commentary on these 15 tips is in brackets.]

15 Shipwreck Survival Tips from Life of Pi by Yann Martel

1. Always read instructions carefully.

[Great advice, if you have instructions. Truth is, if you are in a life raft, and the raft is equipped with survival tools, e.g. flare guns, rations, first aid, desalination pumps and/or solar stills, etc., then by all means read the instructions first.]

2. Do not drink urine. Or sea water. Or bird blood.

[Do not drink alcohol, colored snow and ice, engine coolant or anything that might contain antifreeze or chemical additives, stagnant pond water, or any type of blood. Alcohol increases dehydration and impairs judgment, urine is contaminated by metabolites, stagnant water is bacterial and blood is too hard to digest without water. For that matter, so is food. Eat sparingly if there's no fresh water.]

3. Do not eat jellyfish. Or fish that are armed with spikes. Or that have parrot-like beaks. Or that puff up like balloons.

4. Pressing the eyes of fish will paralyse them.

[Not sure about this. Never tried it. Best just to knock their heads on a seat or gunnel.]

5. The body can be a hero in battle. If a castaway is injured, beware of well-meaning but ill-founded medical treatment. Ignorance is the worst doctor, while rest and sleep are the best nurses.

[Don't let anyone sleep if they have a recent head injury or are suffering from hypothermia or heat exhaustion.]

6. Put up your feet at least five minutes every hour.

[Sounds like good advice.]

7. Unnecessary exertion should be kept occupied with whatever light distraction may suggest itself. Playing card games, Twenty Questions and I Spy With My Little Eye are excellent forms of simple recreation. Community singing is another sure-fire way to life the spirits. Yarn spinning is also highly recommended.

[Tom Hanks had his little friend Wilson in the movie, Castaway. Not sure how much that helped him.]

8. Green water is shallower than blue water.

[Not always true at the greater depths but mostly true in shoaler waters.]

9. Beware of far-off clouds that look like mountains. Look for green. Ultimately, a foot is the only good judge of land.

10. Do not go swimming. It wastes energy. Besides, a survival craft may drift faster than you can swim. Not to mention the danger of sea life. If you are hot, wet your clothes instead.

11. Do not urinate in your clothes. The momentary warmth is not worth the nappy rash.

12. Shelter yourself. Exposure can kill faster than thirst or hunger.

[The general rule here is: To be dry is to not die.]

13. So long as no excessive water is lost through perspiration, the body can survive up to fourteen days without water. If you feel thirsty, suck a button.

[Just don't choke on it. It's very hard to give yourself the Heimlich maneuver.]

14. Turtles are an easy catch and make for excellent meals. Their blood is a good, nutritious, salt-free drink; their flesh is tasty and filling; their fat has many uses; and the castaway will find turtle eggs a real treat. Mind the beak and the claws.

[Good luck finding a turtle in today's ocean environment. But I think he's talking about a castaway on land, with "beak and claws". And remember what we said earlier, don't drink the blood, and remember to eat sparingly if you don't have water. Also, your survival kit will have fishing gear. Small fish will begin to congregate in the shadow under your raft or lifeboat. Try to catch the small ones, eat some, and use the others as bait to catch larger ones. Try not to catch or attract really large ones that would be more trouble than they're worth.]

15. Don't let your morale flag. Be daunted, but not defeated. Remember: the spirit, above all else, counts. If you have the will to live, you will. Good luck!

[Stay dry, protected from the sun and elements, and collect water at every opportunity. Build a solar still (a plastic bag with a rock and some vegetation or wood in it; leave the bag out in the sun and it will collect condensation. Check all water collected off a tarp for debris and particulates. Bird droppings and flakes of plastic and other material can make you deathly sick.]

OK, that's a start. If anyone wants to add, please use the comment button below.


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