Thursday, May 14, 2009

It takes more than food (water, and shelter) to survive well...

TV can be educational, or at the very least, it can make you think. Has anyone else been following the show "Out of the Wild" on the Discovery Channel? Nine people volunteered to go out into the Alaskan wilderness, with no idea as to how long they would be there, with directions to go from shelter to shelter to shelter until they make it "out of the wild." They have to endure the cold, hunt, endure the cold, manage the conditions while ill, endure the cold, get along with each other, endure the cold, go hungry, endure the cold....well, you get the idea. As of this writing, four people have used the GPS locator each one of them has been given, which when activated immediately results in a helicopter ride back to civilization. That leaves 5 who have already endured more than two weeks in harsh conditions, and who, at the end of the last episode, were setting off on yet another trek, not knowing that they had farther to go than they thought, seeing as how they had misread their map... There is no prize for anyone, unless you count the satisfaction of knowing that they can survive the experience, so it's not a matter of money or luxury items as motivation.

What have I been thinking? Some of the reasons that people went home were really a surprise to me. Let me preface my thoughts with the statement that I really admire everyone who was willing to undergo this experience, and anything I say here is not meant as a criticism or negative judgment. It just made me rethink what may be necessary in an emergency situation, and with the acknowledgement that I may remember some things wrong, here's what I've been learning (I apologize that I don't remember everyone's name--I will just use no one's name instead):

--The person who decided to "push the button" on the GPS locator first was actually the person with the best hunting skills. At first I thought this person was the oldest in the group (I don't think I saw the first episode in its entirety) but as far as I can figure, she was the second oldest. I was really rooting for her, because in an emergency situation you hope everyone will make it, and her attitude at first was that she was going to stick with it. She then decided that she didn't want to do it anymore, and if memory serves, said that she was "too old" to finish the experience. She pushed the button pretty early on. (Easy for me to say, I wasn't there...)

The thing that saddens me about this, especially as I have seen further episodes, is what an asset she would have been to the team with her hunting skills. There have been many days where the remaining individuals have gone with little to no food in part due to their limited hunting skills. She was and would have continued to be a valuable contributor to the team if she would have been able to continue. My point? Age is something you can't change--everyone gets older, and it certainly beats the alternative. Many times with age comes greater knowledge and experience--knowledge and experience that would be gravely missed were it not there to benefit the group going through difficult circumstances.

--The second and third people to leave left together, but for different reasons. One was the actual oldest person in the group, again, as far as I could gather, and he had great difficulty keeping up with the strenuous requirements of traveling and enduring the conditions. He tried, but he was slowing down the group, and he finally decided to go home. I don't know that anyone would be ready for hiking the Alaskan wilderness, but being in the best possible physical condition that we can be will help us in any type of emergency situation. Hey, it can't hurt....

The other person that left that day was the other member of the team that was experienced in outdoor activities and skills. He didn't leave because of physical duress (although I'm sure there was physical duress for everyone involved)--he left because he didn't like being part of a group in this type of situation. From what I could gather, he was used to making decisions on his own, and he didn't like the group dynamic, and having to consult with/wait for/depend on/ others in a situation that he recognized was dangerous, such as when there was a slower member of the group, and he was anxious to get to shelter for survival purposes. He elected to go home because he was used to doing things by himself, and he no longer wanted to participate in the experience.

What did I learn from this? We need to prepare for situations in such a way that we can have minimum stress--and respect other people's differences. Not everyone will want to be part of a big group, but their knowledge and skills can be a benefit to everyone if they are allowed to contribute in ways that they are comfortable with. Because this person didn't like the constant interaction, the group as a whole lost the valuable skills he had in dealing with the outdoor conditions....

--I would have to say that the last person to date that decided to "push the button" was the biggest surprise to me. He was the strongest of the group, and one of, if not the, youngest member. He was also probably the largest, and when there was little to no food to sustain the group, he suffered greatly, to the point where he passed out in one of the shelters. Too many calories used, with too few calories consumed, is not a good combination for anyone, and it resulted in his decision to leave the experience. It makes sense that a bigger person would need more calories to maintain the strength needed in any kind of emergency situation--it just didn't occur to me that in the kind of situation where there are fewer calories available per person that the smaller individuals might last longer because they need fewer calories...but that's what happened here, and the person I thought would be among the last to get a helicopter ride has already boarded and gone...

So it takes a lot more than just food, water and shelter (although some of the shelters featured on this show looked pretty insubstantial) to survive in emergency conditions. There is attitude, physical fitness level, and a number of other factors that will affect the outcome when you/I /we find ourselves in harsh conditions. Watching them skin and prepare and eat the wild animals they were able to hunt successfully shows me how much I have to learn in that area--and it also shows me that you do what you have to do. Having the knowledge ahead of time so that you can get every last bit of nourishment out of whatever you are lucky enough to get your hands on will help a great deal if it's all you have to eat. It may also be good for nourishment and morale if you have food stashed in different places (as they find in the various shelters) that you can pull out as a last resort when you are truly in difficult straits...

Well, my thanks goes out to Discovery Channel for airing Out of the Wild The Alaska Experiment. I just went to find the website for it to link it here, so I will probably check that out some more, but the program times are there. (I don't know anyone who works for this channel, I just like what I'm learning on this program.) If they air repeats, I would recommend watching them.

How would you/I/we do if we found ourselves in harsh circumstances working with a group of people who had the same goals to survive? What are our attitudes? What can we contribute towards the group's survival? Hopefully we are/are getting prepared enough so that we can supplement our diet/supplies with some meat from local wildlife, rather than depending solely on their occasional appearance to have anything to eat at all. After all, wildlife wants to survive as well. Just watching the beavers on this show was evidence of that.

6 comments:

matthiasj said...

I guess not all TV is bad. I always liked Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.

matthiasj
Kentucky Preppers Network

Marie said...

MatthiasJ--I think what appealed to me about this one is that their training for the most part was so limited, but they still have to figure out what they are going to do in really hard conditions. I haven't really seen the ones you've mentioned, but they sound familiar. Anything that gives more options, I like. Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Marie, I have been watching this program with great interest. It is really Educational. The young man who left because of his discomfort with the "group", left before the others got him killed or seriously injured because of thier stupidity. In My humble opinion he did the right thing.

This show is living proof that God watches over idiots. I am totally amazed that the rest of these people actually are still alive. They are lazy self serving and typical of our generation of entitlement babies.

Just my opinion

Carl

Marie said...

Carl--I can see why the person who didn't like the group's decisions left--he was right about the need to get to shelter before dark, in just the case I'm thinking of. It's just too bad that the group missed out on his expertise...
I'm also amazed that they are still alive and staying in the experience since they don't seem to eat that much at all. However, I can't say much because I'm not sure I would do that much better if I were thrown into that situation, and I'm not too happy about that. So much to learn, in I don't know how much time...thanks for your comment!

preparednesspro said...

This is a very interesting synopsis of the show so far. I don't follow it myself, but can see how this would really make one think about being in this type of situation. The "lone wolf" mentality is not a healthy one. It's with community that we'll survive collectively. I find it interesting that everyone came with their own strengths. We'll definitely need to contribute in order to be elevating the group, rather than pulling them down. http://tinyurl.com/onan6z

Marie said...

PreparednessPro--Thanks for the great comment--couldn't really add more. The one with the "lone wolf" mentality was probably right in what he wanted to do, but the others didn't want to leave the one who was slowing down the group behind, and that highlights, for me, anyway, that added to stressful survival/emergency situations, there are likely going to be really hard decisions to be made. I just hope everyone will prepare to the best of their ability and within their means, so that such situations will at least be a little easier...thanks for your comment!