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Hollywood has done its fair share of films about people stranded on an island. You’ve got Tom Hanks’ Castaway, Six Days Seven Nights starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche, Pierce Brosnan’s Robinson Crusoe, The Blue Lagoon with a young Phoebe Cates, The Lord of the Flies, and the TV series Lost.

In these movies, the protagonists were stranded on an island after their planes were forced to land in the middle of their flight. Others were shipwrecked and washed ashore the strange island. These are completely possible scenarios, which everyone should be prepared for. The chances of it ever happening to you may be slim but it doesn’t mean you should be ready just in case.

For one, you should be prepared for such a tragedy every time you board a plane or a ship. Our survival will also depend on the survival skills and knowledge you’ve gained so far.


Emergency Kit

Before boarding any ship, you should have an emergency kit with you. This kit should include every piece of survival gear you can think of that could help you survive being in open water or being washed ashore and stranded on an island.

The case may be different when you board a commercial flight. You are not allowed to carry anything pointy so a multi-tool may not make it into your belongings. But if you’re in a private plane or you rented a small plane to take you sight-seeing, then you may take your emergency kit with you. There’s also the option of packing TSA-compliant survival kit so you should definitely look into that.

If things go wrong during your flight or sea voyage, follow the safety precautions as instructed. Quickly put on your life vest and grab your emergency bag if it is with you. Ideally, you should have a waterproof bag that floats in water so there’s always the chance you can retrieve your kit.


When You’re Stranded on An Island

So you survived a plane crash or a sinking ship and you’re left all alone in what seems to be a deserted island, what do you do now?


Don’t Panic

The most important key to survival is not to panic. It’s important that you stay as positive as you can despite the string of bad luck. Look at it this way. You survived. You’re still alive. You’re better off than those who didn’t make it. At least that’s something you should be grateful for. Your next step is to stay alive. To do that, you need to stay calm and have a clear mind.


Survey the Situation

If you wake up amongst debris, don’t panic and quickly try to free yourself. Avoid injury as much as possible. If you’re hurt, your chances of survival decrease. Observe everything around you and see if there’s a safer way to get out. If you’re already hurt, don’t aggravate the injury further. Avoid injuries other parts of your body, as well.

If you’re washed ashore or once you free yourself from the wreckage, watch here you’re going. The coast may be filled with corals and shells that could cut you. Ideally, you should be wearing a sturdy pair of boots or shoes.

Keep your balance. You may be exhausted from paddling in the water or dizzy after emerging from a downed plane but you still should be careful of falling on your face once you’re on shore.


Salvage Supplies

Once you get you’re bearing, look at whatever have been washed ashore. If you were on a plane, see what you can use among the debris. Take everything you can. You will eventually find a use for them. Hopefully, you’ll find food, water and a knife among the wreckage.


Find or Build A Shelter

You don’t want to be in the open when it gets dark. Try to make a shelter out of the stuff you salvaged. You can also use whatever you can find on the island including leaves, vines, and branches.

Build a temporary shelter as soon as you can. This will help shield you from the cold and the elements in case it rains or something. Come morning, you’ll need to decide if you’re staying where you are or if you have to find a better spot to build a sturdier shelter. You’ll need this to protect you from animals and critters in case there are some on the island. Ideally you should stay somewhere near enough to the shore so that rescuers can spot you. There’s also the option of moving a little more inland to be closer to food and water sources and to use the vegetation to protect you from the sun and rain.

You’ll need tools to build your shelter. Hopefully, you have a knife on you. If you don’t, you need to be more creative, Fashion a knife out of a piece of the wreckage. You can also sharpen some rocks to make tools such as a hatchet or axe.


Build Fire

Fire will help you a lot to survive being stranded on an island. First, it provides you light and warmth, especially at night. If you catch animals, you can cook them in the fire. Found dirty water? Strain it then boil using fire. Scared off wild animals? Build a fire and keep them away.

Smoke from the fire can be seen from afar giving you a better chance to be spotted by rescuers. The light from the fire itself can also be seen at night, which is a great thing in case ships are floating or planes are flying nearby in the dark.


Find Water

Even if you find water bottles from the wreckage, they will eventually run out especially if it takes too long for you to be rescued. You need to look for a steady source of fresh water.

You’ll likely find one if the island is filled with vegetation. Before heading out to look for fresh water, get some gear together. Bring some food and water in case you can’t go back to your camp immediately. You’ll also need light, fire starter, protection from the cold and elements, containers, and a weapon, among other things.

As you venture deeper into the island, look out for footprints. The more animal prints you find, the higher the chance that you’re near a water source.

In case, you’re stranded on an island that’s barren and filled with sand and rocks, it will be more difficult to find a water source. There are a few possible sources if you’re really out of drinking water. One is the heavens. Collect rain water using any container you can find. Large leaves can be used to catch more of the raindrops so you could collect more rainwater.

Another option is to build a solar water still. Dig a hole on the ground until it reaches the damp part. Place a container in the hole and fill the gaps between the container and the hole with wet leaves. Place a sheet of plastic (hopefully, you have one) over the hole. Use rocks to keep the plastic sheet in place. Add a small rock in the middle of the plastic sheet. Condensation will transpire on the underside of the plastic sheet. The water will then run to the center and drip into the container.



The good thing about being stranded on an island is that there’s likely fish in the shallow parts along the beach. There’s also a chance that there are trees, plants and fungi that bear fruits or have parts that are edible. You just need to know which ones are edible and which are poisonous.


Tools and Weapons

To do most of the tasks stated above, you need the right kinds of tools. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a hammer and handsaw for building a nice shelter or a crossbow for hunting down game. If you do, then you’re pretty lucky. If you don’t, you have to make do with what you have.

Having a knife will be pretty handy as you can make other tools with it. Sharpen one end of a straight branch and you now have a spear. Use this to catch fish or hunt animals for food. You can also make stakes that you can place around your camp to keep you safe from possible threats.

You must have knowledge on how to make traps and snares. This will help you catch smaller animals that you can cook later.


Keep Your Sanity

Even if you manage to find food and water to keep you alive, you still have to take care of your mental health. This is on a different level altogether. Hanks’ character in Cast Away managed to ease the mental and emotional effects of being stranded on an island alone by having Wilson, his friendly neighborhood volleyball. When he lost Wilson, he reacted as if he lost a real person, a real friend.

One way to keep your wits is to keep a pet. It could be a pet rock or a pet log dressed in one of the shirts you salvaged. During Steve Callahan’s 76 days adrift on the Atlantic Ocean, he named and talked to the fish under his raft. You can also look at your ordeal as test by a higher being. Just look at the story of Job. He went through so much but in the end, he’s generally fine. You’ll be fine too as long as you stay alive and stay sane.


Getting Rescued

Aside from surviving being stranded on an island, you’re main goal should be to actually get off the island. Aside from using fire and smoke to signal for help, you can also spell out the word “help” or “SOS” on a clear patch of land. Use logs or whatever material you can find.

Be ready to signal rescuers with a signal mirror, a thermal blanket or anything you have that reflects the light.


Finding Help

You will have to decide if staying on the island is the right thing to do. If it seems like everyone has given up home that you’re still alive, then you may be better off taking your chances in the water.

Build a raft out of tree trunks, logs and vine. Gather as much food, water and gear with you. Make sure they’re properly secured to your raft. Place protection over your head against the sun and rain. Don’t forget your compass and oars for steering the raft.


Getting stranded on an island is a horrific ordeal. There’s no doubt about that. Well, unless that island is home to unicorns and wish-fulfilling fairies then sign me in. In real life, however, you should do everything in your power to survive being stranded on an island and eventually be rescued. One key to do that is to not overwork yourself. Work during the day and get some rest at night like you normally would.

Hopefully, this list provides you with more knowledge that will help you survive being stranded on an island. If you wish to know more about the different survival skills and other tips and hacks that could prove pivotal in your survival in such tragic circumstances, please visit The Gentleman Pirate. There’s treasure chest of vital survival information in there.

What Would I Do If I Was On A Sinking Ship Photo by grandfailure/Bigstock

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