Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Rule of 3's Applied

Jamie Neale, a UK man visiting Australia, did everything wrong. When he walked into the bush for a hike, he took no survival gear with him, only a bit of food and water. He had brought a "space blanket" as emergency survival gear, but forgot it when he started his walk. Neale quickly became lost and was forced to survive on his own, without gear, for 12 days. What saved him? The Rule of 3.

The Rule of 3 is a pnemonic device for prioritizing survival needs. Here is what they are:

You can survive for three minutes without air.

You can survive for three hours without warmth. (Less, in water).

You can survive for three days without water to drink.

You can survive for three weeks without food.

Who would find air important to survival? Divers; miners trapped by a cave-in; a person whose car has gone off the road and into deep water; a child trapped in an abandoned refrigerator.

Who would find warmth important to survival? Restaurant employees locked into a walk-in freezer by a robber; the air crash passengers trapped in the Andes back in the 1970's; the protagonist of Jack London's tale To Build A Fire.

Who would find water important to survival? A person trapped in a desert; survivors of a shipwreck sheltering in a lifeboat.

Who would find food important to survival? US military personnel imprisoned by Japan during WWII; the millions killed by famine in the 1920's in the Soviet Union.

What about Jamie Neale, then? He survived because of blind luck, in spite of his incredible stupidity. Jamie had no survival problems concerning air; he wasn't trapped in a cave, for example. The weather in Australia in the region Jamie was lost in is temperate, not cold enough on its own to kill, and Jamie managed to huddle under logs during the coldest periods. Water and food were the two things Jamie needed in the bush, and of the two, it was lack of water that was working on him the most; after being found, he had to be hospitalized for dehydration. He had some access to water, but was exhausting his body through being unable to find sufficient food.

What should Jamie have done? Carry the Ten Essentials. In a container the size of a cigar box, you can carry much of what you need to survive an ordeal such as Jamie's. For someone contemplating going into large tracts of wilderness, supplementing the Ten is pretty much a necessity. Taking some survival courses or even reading some books on the subject should be part of the process for preparing oneself for the wilderness.

Jamie Neale survived in spite of his incredible stupidity through blind luck; the wilderness he went into was a kindly one, comparatively speaking. Think of a wilderness area you would like to visit, and ponder: if you were trapped there without any survival gear, how long would you survive? Say you break your ankle while cross-country skiing in Maine, for example: how long would you live? Say that your sailing yacht is struck and overturned by a whale near the Galapagos Islands (this actually happened), and you had to survive in your life raft for a couple of weeks: could you do it? Think of pilot Steve Fossett: had he survived his plane crash, how long would he have survived in the Nevada desert?

Follow the motto of the Boy Scouts, and Be Prepared. Don't rely on blind luck to save you.

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