Survival Lessons Learned from Discovery Channel’s “Naked Castaway”

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

One of the shows I caught this summer was a three-part series called Naked Castaway from the Discovery Channel.

The show features British adventurer Ed Stafford as he tries to survive for 60 days in a South Pacific islands with nothing.  The film crew dropped him off in a Fiji island with no tools or supplies, no crew and no clothes.  He did all the filming himself, has he deals with extreme heat, dehydration, lack of food and find shelter.  He does reveal there is a first aid kit somewhere on the island to be used in an extreme emergency.  For the easily offended, the show includes a warning in the beginning of each episode:  “If you are easily offended by the sight of naked buttocks, please avert your eyes.”  However, Ed Stafford does cover up as quickly as possible using leaves and other items that he finds, in order to avoid being sunburned.

Surviving 60 days in a remote island with nothing is difficult and Ed showed a lot of ingenuity throughout the course of the show.  I thought I’d share some of the survival lessons observed.

1.  Fire is critical to survival.    He needed fire to keep warm at night, purify water and cook food.  One of his first successes was making a fire.  Building a fire without matches is hard work and it took him, an experienced survivalist, many hours.  I keep at least a box of matches in my purse and car at all times.

2.  Trash can be your friend.   Ed Stafford had a problem being able to store water until he found water bottles that had washed up the shore.  He also found a couple of mismatched flip flops to protect his feet, a torn t-shirt, a large can to cook with etc.  During hard times, learning to repurpose items that would have gone in the trash is a useful skill.

3.  You really need a knife.  In the beginning of the show, Ed had a very had time cutting wood for shelter, firewood, etc.  He was using a sharp shell which took hours and lots of effort.  Later, he was able to salvage a discarded blade from trash which he jury rigged to make a cutting tool.  I have a small Swiss Army Knife, but I think I will add a real knife to my every day carry.

4.  Antibiotics can save your life.  Ed got a nasty bacterial infection from something he ate, and he got fever, chills, nausea and was not sure if he could continue.  He had to call for medical aid and after being given antibiotics, he was able to function.  This shows that no matter how hardy and seasoned you are, sometimes the tiniest bacteria and do you in.  Antibiotics are an essential part of your survival supplies.

5.  You need to maintain a daily routine.  I noticed this piece of survival advice when I read SAS Desert Survival, and I believe that it’s true.  Being alone in an uninhabited island for a long time can drive someone batty, but maintaining a regular routine really helps a person cope with a difficult situation.

6.  Learn to build a comfortable shelter.  In the beginning of the show, Ed stayed in a cave for shelter, but he found it to be too exposed and later spent many days building a lean-to shelter.  Once he completed it, he also added a “bed” that was off the ground.  He felt much more comfortable and felt he could have stayed even longer than the 60 days if he had to.

7.  A good mental attitude is all-important.  Dealing with lack of water, food and comforts brought him close to despair, which was starting to affect his ability to obtain what he needed.  Once his attitude changed, he became more effective in everything he did and his “luck” started to change.  In difficult times, mental toughness may beat all the supplies and skills because this is what will help you keep going even if things look bleak.

I am sure I left out some things but these seven lessons are what stood out for me.  The mini-series was well made and seemed more authentic than some survival shows around.  Long time readers know that I am a big fan of the Survivorman series, and I have been looking for a show of the same quality ever since.  I think Naked Castaway is right up there and I recommend it.

© Apartment Prepper 2013

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  1. 8-19-13 This blog was interesting about what information and lessons you realized from the show. Your observations will help all of us.
    I watched one segment with a man and a woman stranded naked in a jungle environment. The man did nothing but complain and was reluctant to cooperate. I think mental attitude is paramount to survival.
    On a side note, Les Stroud will be having a new survival show starting in September. He should be viewed on the Science Channel.

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