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CHAPTER 16 - SEA SURVIVAL
Perhaps the most difficult survival situation to
be in is sea survival. Short-or long-term survival depends upon rations and
equipment available and your ingenuity. You must be resourceful to survive.
Water covers about 75 percent of the earth's
surface, with about 70 percent being oceans and seas. You can assume that you
will sometime cross vast expanses of water. There is always the chance that
the plane or ship you are on will become crippled by such hazards as storms,
collision, fire, or war.
THE OPEN SEA
As a survivor on the open sea, you will face
waves and wind. You may also face extreme heat or cold. To keep these
environmental hazards from becoming serious problems, take precautionary
measures as soon as possible. Use the available resources to protect yourself
from the elements and from heat or extreme cold and humidity.
Protecting yourself from the elements meets only
one of your basic needs. You must also be able to obtain water and food.
Satisfying these three basic needs will help prevent serious physical and
psychological problems. However, you must know how to treat health problems that
may result from your situation.
Your survival at sea depends upon--
- Your knowledge of and ability to use the
available survival equipment.
- Your special skills and ability to apply them
to cope with the hazards you face.
- Your will to live.
When you board a ship or aircraft, find out what
survival equipment is on board, where it is stowed, and what it contains. For
instance, how many life preservers and lifeboats or rafts are on board? Where
are they located? What type of survival equipment do they have? How much food,
water, and medicine do they contain? How many people are they designed to
If you are responsible for other personnel on
board, make sure you know where they are and they know where you are.
Down at Sea
If you are in an aircraft that goes down at sea,
take the following actions once you clear the aircraft. Whether you are in the
water or in a raft --
- Get clear and upwind of the aircraft as soon
as possible, but stay in the vicinity until the aircraft sinks.
- Get clear of fuel-covered water in case the
- Try to find other survivors.
A search for survivors usually takes place around
the entire area of and near the crash site. Missing personnel may be unconscious
and floating low in the water. Figure 16-1 illustrates
The best technique for rescuing personnel from
the water is to throw them a life preserver attached to a line. Another is to
send a swimmer (rescuer) from the raft with a line attached to a flotation
device that will support the rescuer's weight. This device will help conserve a
rescuer's energy while recovering the survivor. The least acceptable technique
is to send an attached swimmer without flotation devices to retrieve a survivor.
In all cases, the rescuer wears a life preserver. A rescuer should not
underestimate the strength of a panic-stricken person in the water. A careful
approach can prevent injury to the rescuer.
When the rescuer approaches a survivor in trouble
from behind, there is little danger the survivor will kick, scratch, or grab
him. The rescuer swims to a point directly behind the survivor and grasps the
life preserver's backstrap. The rescuer uses the sidestroke to drag the survivor
to the raft.
If you are in the water, make your way to a raft.
If no rafts are available, try to find a large piece of floating debris to cling
to. Relax; a person who knows how to relax in ocean water is in very little
danger of drowning. The body's natural buoyancy will keep at least the top of
the head above water, but some movement is needed to keep the face above water.
Floating on your back takes the least energy. Lie
on your back in the water, spread your arms and legs, and arch your back. By
controlling your breathing in and out, your face will always be out of the water
and you may even sleep in this position for short periods. Your head will be
partially submerged, but your face will be above water. If you cannot float on
your back or if the sea is too rough, float facedown in the water as shown in Figure
The following are the best swimming strokes
during a survival situation:
- Dog paddle.
This stroke is excellent when clothed or wearing a life jacket. Although slow
in speed, it requires very little energy.
Use this stroke to swim underwater, through oil or debris, or in rough seas.
It is probably the best stroke for long-range swimming: it allows you to
conserve your energy and maintain a reasonable speed.
It is a good relief stroke because you use only one arm to maintain momentum
This stroke is also an excellent relief stroke. It relieves the muscles that
you use for other strokes. Use it if an underwater explosion is likely.
If you are in an area where surface oil is
- Discard your shoes and buoyant life preserver.
Note: If you have an uninflated life preserver,
- Cover your nose, mouth, and eyes and quickly go
- Swim underwater as far as possible before
surfacing to breathe.
- Before surfacing to breathe and while still
underwater, use your hands to push burning fluid away from the area where you
wish to surface. Once an area is clear of burning liquid, you can surface and
take a few breaths. Try to face downwind before inhaling.
- Submerge feet first and continue as above until
clear of the flames.
If you are in oil-covered water that is free of
fire, hold your head high to keep the oil out of your eyes. Attach your life
preserver to your wrist and then use it as a raft.
If you have a life preserver, you can stay afloat
for an indefinite period. In this case, use the "HELP" body position:
Heat Escaping Lessening Posture (HELP). Remain still and assume the fetal
position to help you retain body heat. You lose about 50 percent of your body
heat through your head. Therefore, keep your head out of the water. Other areas
of high heat loss are the neck, the sides, and the groin. Figure
16-3 illustrates the HELP position.
If you are in a raft--
- Check the physical condition of all on board.
Give first aid if necessary. Take seasickness pills if available. The best
way to take these pills is to place them under the tongue and let them
dissolve. There are also suppositories or injections against seasickness.
Vomiting, whether from seasickness or other causes, increases the danger of
- Try to salvage all floating
equipment--rations; canteens, thermos jugs, and other containers; clothing;
seat cushions; parachutes; and anything else that will be useful to you.
Secure the salvaged items in or to your raft. Make sure the items have no
sharp edges that can puncture the raft.
- If there are other rafts, lash the rafts
together so they are about 7.5 meters apart. Be ready to draw them closer
together if you see or hear an aircraft. It is easier for an aircrew to spot
rafts that are close together rather than scattered.
- Remember, rescue at sea is a cooperative
effort. Use all available visual or electronic signaling devices to signal
and make contact with rescuers. For example, raise a flag or reflecting
material on an oar as high as possible to attract attention.
- Locate the emergency radio and get it into
operation. Operating instructions are on it. Use the emergency transceiver
only when friendly aircraft are likely to be in the area.
- Have other signaling devices ready for instant
use. If you are in enemy territory, avoid using a signaling device that will
alert the enemy. However, if your situation is desperate, you may have to
signal the enemy for rescue if you are to survive.
- Check the raft for inflation, leaks, and
points of possible chafing. Make sure the main buoyancy chambers are firm
(well rounded) but not overly tight (Figure 16-4).
Check inflation regularly. Air expands with heat; therefore, on hot days,
release some air and add air when the weather cools.
- Decontaminate the raft of all fuel. Petroleum
will weaken its surfaces and break down its glued joints.
- Throw out the sea anchor, or improvise a drag
from the raft's case, bailing bucket, or a roll of clothing. A sea anchor
helps you stay close to your ditching site, making it easier for searchers
to find you if you have relayed your location. Without a sea anchor, your
raft may drift over 160 kilometers in a day, making it much harder to find
you. You can adjust the sea anchor to act as a drag to slow down the rate of
travel with the current, or as a means to travel with the current. You make
this adjustment by opening or closing the sea anchor's apex. When open, the
sea anchor (Figure 16-5) acts as a drag that keeps
you in the general area. When closed, it forms a pocket for the current to
strike and propels the raft in the current's direction.
Additionally, adjust the sea anchor so that when
the raft is on the wave's crest, the sea anchor is in the wave's trough (Figure
- Wrap the sea anchor rope with cloth to prevent
its chafing the raft. The anchor also helps to keep the raft headed into the
wind and waves.
- In stormy water, rig the spray and windshield
at once. In a 20-man raft, keep the canopy erected at all times. Keep your
raft as dry as possible. Keep it properly balanced. All personnel should
stay seated, the heaviest one in the center.
- Calmly consider all aspects of your situation
and determine what you and your companions must do to survive. Inventory all
equipment, food, and water. Waterproof items that salt water may affect.
These include compasses, watches, sextant, matches, and lighters. Ration
food and water.
- Assign a duty position to each person: for
example, water collector, food collector, lookout, radio operator, signaler,
and water bailers.
Note: Lookout duty should not exceed 2 hours. Keep
in mind and remind others that cooperation is one of the keys to survival.
Keep a log. Record the navigator's last fix, the
time of ditching, the names and physical condition of personnel, and the
ration schedule. Also record the winds, weather, direction of swells, times of
sunrise and sunset, and other navigational data.
If you are down in unfriendly waters, take
special security measures to avoid detection. Do not travel in the daytime.
Throw out the sea anchor and wait for nightfall before paddling or hoisting
sail. Keep low in the raft; stay covered with the blue side of the camouflage
cloth up. Be sure a passing ship or aircraft is friendly or neutral be-fore
trying to attract its attention. If the enemy detects you and you are close to
capture, destroy the log book, radio, navigation equipment, maps, signaling
equipment, and firearms. Jump overboard and submerge if the enemy starts
Decide whether to stay in position or to travel.
Ask yourself, "How much information was signaled before the accident? Is
your position known to rescuers? Do you know it yourself? Is the weather
favorable for a search? Are other ships or aircraft likely to pass your
present position? How many days supply of food and water do you have?"
Cold Weather Considerations
If you are in a cold climate--
- Put on an antiexposure suit. If unavailable,
put on any extra clothing available. Keep clothes loose and comfortable.
- Take care not to snag the raft with shoes or
sharp objects. Keep the repair kit where you can readily reach it.
- Rig a windbreak, spray shield, and canopy.
- Try to keep the floor of the raft dry. Cover
it with canvas or cloth for insulation.
- Huddle with others to keep warm, moving enough
to keep the blood circulating. Spread an extra tarpaulin, sail, or parachute
over the group.
- Give extra rations, if available, to men
suffering from exposure to cold.
The greatest problem you face when submerged in
cold water is death due to hypothermia. When you are immersed in cold water,
hypothermia occurs rapidly due to the decreased insulating quality of wet
clothing and the result of water displacing the layer of still air that normally
surrounds the body. The rate of heat exchange in water is about 25 times greater
than it is in air of the same temperature. Figure 16-7
lists life expectancy times for immersion in water.
Your best protection against the effects of cold
water is to get into the life raft, stay dry, and insulate your body from the
cold surface of the bottom of the raft. If these actions are not possible,
wearing an antiexposure suit will extend your life expectancy considerably.
Remember, keep your head and neck out of the water and well insulated from the
cold water's effects when the temperature is below 19 degrees C. Wearing life
preservers increases the predicted survival time as body position in the water
increases the chance of survival.
Hot Weather Considerations
If you are in a hot climate--
- Rig a sunshade or canopy. Leave enough space
- Cover your skin, where possible, to protect it
from sunburn. Use sunburn cream, if available, on all exposed skin. Your
eyelids, the back of your ears, and the skin under your chin sunburn easily.
Most of the rafts in the U. S. Army and Air Force
inventories can satisfy the needs for personal protection, mode of travel, and
evasion and camouflage.
Note: Before boarding any raft,
remove and tether (attach) your life preserver to yourself or the raft. Ensure
there are no other metallic or sharp objects on your clothing or equipment
that could damage the raft. After boarding the raft, don your life preserver
The one-man raft has a main cell inflation. If
the CO2 bottle should malfunction or if the raft develops a leak, you
can inflate it by mouth.
The spray shield acts as a shelter from the cold,
wind, and water. In some cases, this shield serves as insulation. The raft's
insulated bottom limits the conduction of cold thereby protecting you from
hypothermia (Figure 16-8).
You can travel more effectively by inflating or
deflating the raft to take advantage of the wind or current. You can use the
spray shield as a sail white the ballast buckets serve to increase drag in the
water. You may use the sea anchor to control the raft's speed and direction.
There are rafts developed for use in tactical
areas that are black. These rafts blend with the sea's background. You can
further modify these rafts for evasion by partially deflating them to obtain a
A lanyard connects the one-man raft to a
parachutist (survivor) landing in the water. You (the survivor) inflate it upon
landing. You do not swim to the raft, but pull it to you via the lanyard. The
raft may hit the water upside down, but you can right it by approaching the side
to which the bottle is attached and flipping the raft over. The spray shield
must be in the raft to expose the boarding handles. Follow the steps outlined in
the note under raft procedures above when boarding the raft
If you have an arm injury, the best way to board
is by turning your back to the small end of the raft, pushing the raft under
your buttocks, and lying back. Another way to board the raft is to push down on
its small end until one knee is inside and lie forward (Figure
In rough seas, it may be easier for you to grasp
the small end of the raft and, in a prone position, to kick and pull yourself
into the raft. When you are lying face down in the raft, deploy and adjust the
sea anchor. To sit upright, you may have to disconnect one side of the seat kit
and roll to that side. Then you adjust the spray shield. There are two
variations of the one-man raft; the improved model incorporates an inflatable
spray shield and floor that provide additional insulation. The spray shield
helps keep you dry and warm in cold oceans and protects you from the sun in the
hot climates (Figure 16-11).
Some multiplace aircraft carry the seven-man
raft. It is a component of the survival drop kit (Figure
16-12). This raft may inflate upside down and require you to right the raft
before boarding. Always work from the bottle side to prevent injury if the raft
turns over. Facing into the wind, the wind provides additional help in righting
the raft. Use the handles on the inside bottom of the raft for boarding (Figure
Use the boarding ramp if someone holds down the
raft's opposite side. If you don't have help, again work from the bottle side
with the wind at your back to help hold down the raft. Follow the steps outlined
in the note under raft procedures above. Then grasp an
oarlock and boarding handle, kick your legs to get your body prone on the water,
and then kick and pull yourself into the raft. If you are weak or injured, you
may partially deflate the raft to make boarding easier (Figure
Use the hand pump to keep the buoyancy chambers
and cross seat firm. Never overinflate the raft.
Twenty- or Twenty-Five-Man Rafts
You may find 20- or 25-man rafts in multiplace
aircraft (Figures 16-15 and 16-16).
You will find them in accessible areas of the fuselage or in raft compartments.
Some may be automatically deployed from the cock-pit, while others may need
manual deployment. No matter how the raft lands in the water, it is ready for
boarding. A lanyard connects the accessory kit to the raft and you retrieve the
kit by hand. You must manually inflate the center chamber with the hand pump.
Board the 20- or 25-man raft from the aircraft, if possible. If not, board in
the following manner:
- Approach the lower boarding ramp.
- Remove your life preserver and tether it to
yourself so that it trails behind you.
- Grasp the boarding handles and kick your legs
to get your body into a prone position on the water's surface; then kick and
pull until you are inside the raft.
An incompletely inflated raft will make boarding
easier. Approach the intersection of the raft and ramp, grasp the upper boarding
handle, and swing one leg onto the center of the ramp, as in mounting a horse (Figure
Immediately tighten the equalizer clamp upon
entering the raft to prevent deflating the entire raft in case of a puncture (Figure
Use the pump to keep these rafts' chambers and
center ring firm. They should be well rounded but not overly tight.
Rafts do not have keels, therefore, you can't
sail them into the wind. However, anyone can sail a raft downwind. You can
successfully sail multiplace (except 20- to 25-man) rafts 10 degrees off from
the direction of the wind. Do not try to sail the raft unless land is near. If
you decide to sail and the wind is blowing toward a desired destination, fully
inflate the raft, sit high, take in the sea anchor, rig a sail, and use an oar
as a rudder.
In a multiplace (except 20- to 25-man) raft,
erect a square sail in the bow using the oars and their extensions as the mast
and crossbar (Figure 16-19). You may use a waterproof
tarpaulin or parachute material for the sail. If the raft has no regular mast
socket and step, erect the mast by tying it securely to the front cross seat
using braces. Pad the bottom of the mast to prevent it from chafing or punching
a hole through the floor, whether or not there is a socket. The heel of a shoe,
with the toe wedged under the seat, makes a good improvised mast step. Do not
secure the comers of the lower edge of the sail. Hold the lines attached to the
comers with your hands so that a gust of wind will not rip the sail, break the
mast, or capsize the raft.
Take every precaution to prevent the raft from
turning over. In rough weather, keep the sea anchor away from the bow. Have the
passengers sit low in the raft, with their weight distributed to hold the upwind
side down. To prevent falling out, they should also avoid sitting on the sides
of the raft or standing up. Avoid sudden movements without warning the other
passengers. When the sea anchor is not in use, tie it to the raft and stow it in
such a manner that it will hold immediately if the raft capsizes.
Water is your most important need. With it alone,
you can live for ten days or longer, depending on your will to live. When
drinking water, moisten your lips, tongue, and throat before swallowing.
Short Water Rations
When you have a limited water supply and you
can't replace it by chemical or mechanical means, use the water efficiently.
Protect freshwater supplies from seawater contamination. Keep your body well
shaded, both from overhead sun and from reflection off the sea surface. Allow
ventilation of air; dampen your clothes during the hottest part of the day. Do
not exert yourself. Relax and sleep when possible. Fix your daily water ration
after considering the amount of water you have, the output of solar stills and
desalting kit, and the number and physical condition of your party.
If you don't have water, don't eat. If your water
ration is two liters or more per day, eat any part of your ration or any
additional food that you may catch, such as birds, fish, shrimp. The life raft's
motion and anxiety may cause nausea. If you eat when nauseated, you may lose
your food immediately. If nauseated, rest and relax as much as you can, and take
To reduce your loss of water through
perspiration, soak your clothes in the sea and wring them out before putting
them on again. Don't overdo this during hot days when no canopy or sun shield is
available. This is a trade-off between cooling and saltwater boils and rashes
that will result. Be careful not to get the bottom of the raft wet.
Watch the clouds and be ready for any chance of
showers. Keep the tarpaulin handy for catching water. If it is encrusted with
dried salt, wash it in seawater. Normally, a small amount of seawater mixed with
rain will hardly be noticeable and will not cause any physical reaction. In
rough seas you cannot get uncontaminated fresh water.
At night, secure the tarpaulin like a sunshade,
and turn up its edges to collect dew. It is also possible to collect dew along
the sides of the raft using a sponge or cloth. When it rains, drink as much as
you can hold.
When solar stills are available, read the
instructions and set them up immediately. Use as many stills as possible,
depending on the number of men in the raft and the amount of sunlight available.
Secure solar stills to the raft with care. This type of solar still only works
on flat, calm seas.
When desalting kits are available in addition to
solar stills, use them only for immediate water needs or during long overcast
periods when you cannot use solar stills. In any event, keep desalting kits and
emergency water stores for periods when you cannot use solar stills or catch
Water From Fish
Drink the aqueous fluid found along the spine and
in the eyes of large fish. Carefully cut the fish in half to get the fluid along
the spine and suck the eye. If you are so short of water that you need to do
this, then do not drink any of the other body fluids. These other fluids
are rich in protein and fat and will use up more of your reserve water in
digestion than they supply.
In arctic waters, use old sea ice for water. This
ice is bluish, has rounded comers, and splinters easily. It is nearly free of
salt. New ice is gray, milky, hard, and salty. Water from icebergs is fresh, but
icebergs are dangerous to approach. Use them as a source of water only in
eat, unless water is available.
Sleep and rest are the best ways of enduring
periods of reduced water and food intake. However, make sure that you have
enough shade when napping during the day. If the sea is rough, tie yourself to
the raft, close any cover, and ride out the storm as best you can. Relax
is the key word--at least try to relax.
In the open sea, fish will be the main food
source. There are some poisonous and dangerous ocean fish, but, in general, when
out of sight of land, fish are safe to eat. Nearer the shore there are fish that
are both dangerous and poisonous to eat. There are some fish, such as the red
snapper and barracuda, that are normally edible but poisonous when taken from
the waters of atolls and reefs. Flying fish will even jump into your raft!
When fishing, do not handle the fishing line with
bare hands and never wrap it around your hands or tie it to a life raft. The
salt that adheres to it can make it a sharp cutting edge, an edge dangerous both
to the raft and your hands. Wear gloves, if they are available, or use a cloth
to handle fish and to avoid injury from sharp fins and gill covers.
In warm regions, gut and bleed fish immediately
after catching them. Cut fish that you do not eat immediately into thin, narrow
strips and hang them to dry. A well-dried fish stays edible for several days.
Fish not cleaned and dried may spoil in half a day. Fish with dark meat are very
prone to decomposition. If you do not eat them all immediately, do not eat any
of the leftovers. Use the leftovers for bait.
Never eat fish that have pale, shiny gills,
sunken eyes, flabby skin and flesh, or an unpleasant odor. Good fish show the
opposite characteristics. Sea fish have a saltwater or clean fishy odor. Do not
confuse eels with sea snakes that have an obviously scaly body and strongly
compressed, paddle-shaped tail. Both eels and sea snakes are edible, but you
must handle the latter with care because of their poisonous bites. The heart,
blood, intestinal wall, and liver of most fish are edible. Cook the intestines.
Also edible are the partly digested smaller fish that you may find in the
stomachs of large fish. In addition, sea turtles are edible.
Shark meat is a good source of food whether raw,
dried, or cooked. Shark meat spoils very rapidly due to the high concentration
of urea in the blood, therefore, bleed it immediately and soak it in several
changes of water. People prefer some shark species over others. Consider them
all edible except the Greenland shark whose flesh contains high quantities of
vitamin A. Do not eat the livers, due to high vitamin A content.
You can use different materials to make fishing
aids as described in the following paragraphs:
- Fishing line.
Use pieces of tarpaulin or canvas. Unravel the threads and tie them together
in short lengths in groups of three or more threads. Shoelaces and parachute
suspension line also work well.
- Fish hooks.
No survivor at sea should be without fishing equipment but if you are,
improvise hooks as shown in Chapter 8.
- Fish lures.
You can fashion lures by attaching a double hook to any shiny piece of metal.
Use grapples to hook seaweed. You may shake crabs, shrimp, or small fish out
of the seaweed. These you may eat or use for bait. You may eat seaweed itself,
but only when you have plenty of drinking water. Improvise grapples from wood.
Use a heavy piece of wood as the main shaft, and lash three smaller pieces to
the shaft as grapples.
You can use small fish as bait for larger ones. Scoop the small fish up with a
net. If you don't have a net, make one from cloth of some type. Hold the net
under the water and scoop upward. Use all the guts from birds and fish for
bait. When using bait, try to keep it moving in the water to give it the
appearance of being alive.
Helpful Fishing Hints
Your fishing should be successful if you remember
the following important hints:
- Be extremely careful with fish that have teeth
- Cut a large fish loose rather than risk
capsizing the raft. Try to catch small rather than large fish.
- Do not puncture your raft with hooks or other
- Do not fish when large sharks are in the area.
- Watch for schools of fish; try to move close
to these schools.
- Fish at night using a light. The light
- In the daytime, shade attracts some fish. You
may find them under your raft.
- Improvise a spear by tying a knife to an oar
blade. This spear can help you catch larger fish, but you must get them into
the raft quickly or they will slip off the blade. Also, tie the knife very
securely or you may lose it.
- Always take care of your fishing equipment.
Dry your fishing lines, clean and sharpen the hooks, and do not allow the
hooks to stick into the fishing lines.
As stated in Chapter 8, all birds are edible. Eat
any birds you can catch. Sometimes birds may land on your raft, but usually they
are cautious. You may be able to attract some birds by towing a bright piece of
metal behind the raft. This will bring the bird within shooting range, provided
you have a firearm.
If a bird lands within your reach, you may be
able to catch it. If the birds do not land close enough or land on the other end
of the raft, you may be able to catch them with a bird noose. Bait the center of
the noose and wait for the bird to land. When the bird's feet are in the center
of the noose, pull it tight.
Use all parts of the bird. Use the feathers for
insulation, the entrails and feet for bait, and so on. Use your imagination.
Medical Problems Associated With Sea Survival
At sea, you may become seasick, get saltwater
sores, or face some of the same medical problems that occur on land, such as
dehydration or sunburn. These problems can become critical if left untreated.
Seasickness is the nausea and vomiting caused by
the motion of the raft. It can result in--
- Extreme fluid loss and exhaustion.
- Loss of the will to survive.
- Others becoming seasick.
- Attraction of sharks to the raft.
- Unclean conditions.
To treat seasickness--
- Wash both the patient and the raft to remove
the sight and odor of vomit.
- Keep the patient from eating food until his
nausea is gone.
- Have the patient lie down and rest.
- Give the patient seasickness pills if
available. If the patient is unable to take the pills orally, insert them
rectally for absorption by the body.
Note: Some survivors have said that erecting a
canopy or using the horizon as a focal point helped overcome seasickness.
Others have said that swimming alongside the raft for short periods helped,
but extreme care must be taken if swimming.
These sores result from a break in skin exposed
to saltwater for an extended period. The sores may form scabs and pus. Do not
open or drain. Flush the sores with fresh water, if available, and allow to dry.
Apply an antiseptic, if available.
Immersion Rot, Frostbite, and Hypothermia
These problems are similar to those encountered
in cold weather environments. Symptoms and treatment are the same as covered in
If flame, smoke, or other contaminants get in the
eyes, flush them immediately with salt water, then with fresh water, if
available. Apply ointment, if available. Bandage both eyes 18 to 24 hours, or
longer if damage is severe. If the glare from the sky and water causes your eyes
to become bloodshot and inflamed, bandage them lightly. Try to prevent this
problem by wearing sunglasses. Improvise sunglasses if necessary.
This condition is a common problem on a raft. Do
not take a laxative, as this will cause further dehydration. Exercise as much as
possible and drink an adequate amount of water, if available.
This problem is not unusual and is due mainly to
dehydration. It is best not to treat it, as it could cause further dehydration.
Sunburn is a serious problem in sea survival. Try
to prevent sunburn by staying in shade and keeping your head and skin covered.
Use cream or Chap Stick from your first aid kit. Remember, reflection from the
water also causes sunburn.
Whether you are in the water or in a boat or
raft, you may see many types of sea life around you. Some may be more dangerous
than others. Generally, sharks are the greatest danger to you. Other animals
such as whales, porpoises, and stingrays may look dangerous, but really pose
little threat in the open sea.
Of the many hundreds of shark species, only about
20 species are known to attack man. The most dangerous are the great white
shark, the hammerhead, the mako, and the tiger shark. Other sharks known to
attack man include the gray, blue, lemon, sand, nurse, bull, and oceanic white
tip sharks. Consider any shark longer than 1 meter dangerous.
There are sharks in all oceans and seas of the
world. While many live and feed in the depths of the sea, others hunt near the
surface. The sharks living near the surface are the ones you will most likely
see. Their dorsal fins frequently project above the water. Sharks in the
tropical and subtropical seas are far more aggressive than those in temperate
All sharks are basically eating machines. Their
normal diet is live animals of any type, and they will strike at injured or
helpless animals. Sight, smell, or sound may guide them to their prey. Sharks
have an acute sense of smell and the smell of blood in the water excites them.
They are also very sensitive to any abnormal vibrations in the water. The
struggles of a wounded animal or swimmer, underwater explosions, or even a fish
struggling on a fishline will attract a shark.
Sharks can bite from almost any position; they do
not have to turn on their side to bite. The jaws of some of the larger sharks
are so far forward that they can bite floating objects easily without twisting
to the side.
Sharks may hunt alone, but most reports of
attacks cite more than one shark present. The smaller sharks tend to travel in
schools and attack in mass. Whenever one of the sharks finds a victim, the other
sharks will quickly join it. Sharks will eat a wounded shark as quickly as their
Sharks feed at all hours of the day and night.
Most reported shark contacts and attacks were during daylight, and many of these
have been in the late afternoon. Some of the measures that you can take to
protect yourself against sharks when you are in the water are--
- Stay with other swimmers.
A group can maintain a 360-degree watch. A group can either frighten or fight
off sharks better than one man.
- Always watch for sharks.
Keep all your clothing on, to include your shoes. Historically, sharks have
attacked the unclothed men in groups first, mainly in the feet. Clothing also
protects against abrasions should the shark brush against you.
- Avoid urinating.
If you must, only do so in small amounts. Let it dissipate between discharges.
If you must defecate, do so in small amounts and throw it as far away from you
as possible. Do the same if you must vomit.
If a shark attack is imminent while you are in
the water, splash and yell just enough to keep the shark at bay. Sometimes
yelling underwater or slapping the water repeatedly will scare the shark away.
Conserve your strength for fighting in case the shark attacks.
If attacked, kick and strike the shark. Hit the
shark on the gills or eyes if possible. If you hit the shark on the nose, you
may injure your hand if it glances off and hits its teeth.
When you are in a raft and see sharks--
- Do not fish. If you have hooked a fish, let it
go. Do not clean fish in the water.
- Do not throw garbage overboard.
- Do not let your arms, legs, or equipment hang
in the water.
- Keep quiet and do not move around.
- Bury all dead as soon as possible. If there
are many sharks in the area, conduct the burial at night.
When you are in a raft and a shark attack is
imminent, hit the shark with anything you have, except your hands. You will do
more damage to your hands than the shark. If you strike with an oar, be careful
not to lose or break it.
You should watch carefully for any signs of land.
There are many indicators that land is near.
A fixed cumulus cloud in a clear sky or in a sky
where all other clouds are moving often hovers over or slightly downwind from an
In the tropics, the reflection of sunlight from
shallow lagoons or shelves of coral reefs often causes a greenish tint in the
In the arctic, light-colored reflections on
clouds often indicate ice fields or snow-covered land. These reflections are
quite different from the dark gray ones caused by open water.
Deep water is dark green or dark blue. Lighter
color indicates shallow water, which may mean land is near.
At night, or in fog, mist, or rain, you may
detect land by odors and sounds. The musty odor of mangrove swamps and mud flats
carry a long way. You hear the roar of surf long before you see the surf. The
continued cries of seabirds coming from one direction indicate their roosting
place on nearby land.
There usually are more birds near land than over
the open sea. The direction from which flocks fly at dawn and to which they fly
at dusk may indicate the direction of land. During the day, birds are searching
for food and the direction of flight has no significance.
Mirages occur at any latitude, but they are more
likely in the tropics, especially during the middle of the day. Be careful not
to mistake a mirage for nearby land. A mirage disappears or its appearance and
elevation change when viewed from slightly different heights.
You may be able to detect land by the pattern of
the waves (refracted) as they approach land (Figure 16-20).
By traveling with the waves and parallel to the slightly turbulent area marked
"X" on the illustration, you should reach land.
Rafting or Beaching Techniques
Once you have found land, you must get ashore
safely. To raft ashore, you can usually use the one-man raft without danger.
However, going ashore in a strong surf is dangerous. Take your time. Select your
landing point carefully. Try not to land when the sun is low and straight in
front of you. Try to land on the lee side of an island or on a point of land
jutting out into the water. Keep your eyes open for gaps in the surf line, and
head for them. Avoid coral reefs and rocky cliffs. There are no coral reefs near
the mouths of freshwater streams. Avoid rip currents or strong tidal currents
that may carry you far out to sea. Either signal ashore for help or sail around
and look for a sloping beach where the surf is gentle.
If you have to go through the surf to reach
shore, take down the mast. Keep your clothes and shoes on to avoid severe cuts.
Adjust and inflate your life vest. Trail the sea anchor over the stem using as
much line as you have. Use the oars or paddles and constantly adjust the sea
anchor to keep a strain on the anchor line. These actions will keep the raft
pointed toward shore and prevent the sea from throwing the stern around and
capsizing you. Use the oars or paddles to help ride in on the seaward side of a
The surf may be irregular and velocity may vary,
so modify your procedure as conditions demand. A good method of getting through
the surf is to have half the men sit on one side of the raft, half on the other,
facing away from each other. When a heavy sea bears down, half should row (pull)
toward the sea until the crest passes; then the other half should row (pull)
toward the shore until the next heavy sea comes along.
Against a strong wind and heavy surf, the raft
must have all possible speed to pass rapidly through the oncoming crest to avoid
being turned broadside or thrown end over end. If possible, avoid meeting a
large wave at the moment it breaks.
If in a medium surf with no wind or offshore
wind, keep the raft from passing over a wave so rapidly that it drops suddenly
after topping the crest. If the raft turns over in the surf, try to grab hold of
it and ride it in.
As the raft nears the beach, ride in on the crest
of a large wave. Paddle or row hard and ride in to the beach as far as you can.
Do not jump out of the raft until it has grounded, then quickly get out and
If you have a choice, do not land at night. If
you have reason to believe that people live on the shore, lay away from the
beach, signal, and wait for the inhabitants to come out and bring you in.
If you encounter sea ice, land only on large,
stable floes. Avoid icebergs that may capsize and small floes or those obviously
disintegrating. Use oars and hands to keep the raft from rubbing on the edge of
the ice. Take the raft out of the water and store it well back from the floe's
edge. You may be able to use it for shelter. Keep the raft inflated and ready
for use. Any floe may break up without warning.
If rafting ashore is not possible and you have to
swim, wear your shoes and at least one thickness of clothing. Use the sidestroke
or breaststroke to conserve strength.
If the surf is moderate, ride in on the back of a
small wave by swimming forward with it. Dive to a shallow depth to end the ride
just before the wave breaks.
In high surf, swim toward shore in the trough
between waves. When the seaward wave approaches, face it and submerge. After it
passes, work toward shore in the next trough. If caught in the undertow of a
large wave, push off the bottom or swim to the surface and proceed toward shore
If you must land on a rocky shore, look for a
place where the waves rush up onto the rocks. Avoid places where the waves
explode with a high, white spray. Swim slowly when making your approach. You
will need your strength to hold on to the rocks. You should be fully clothed and
wear shoes to reduce injury.
After selecting your landing point, advance
behind a large wave into the breakers. Face toward shore and take a sitting
position with your feet in front, 60 to 90 centimeters (2 or 3 feet) lower than
your head. This position will let your feet absorb the shock when you land or
strike sub-merged boulders or reefs. If you do not reach shore behind the wave
you picked, swim with your hands only. As the next wave approaches, take a
sitting position with your feet forward. Repeat the procedure until you land.
Water is quieter in the lee of a heavy growth of
seaweed. Take advantage of such growth. Do not swim through the seaweed; crawl
over the top by grasping the vegetation with overhand movements.
Cross a rocky or coral reef as you would land on
a rocky shore. Keep your feet close together and your knees slightly bent in a
relaxed sitting posture to cushion the blows against the coral.
Pickup or Rescue
On sighting rescue craft approaching for pickup
(boat, ship, conventional aircraft, or helicopter), quickly clear any lines
(fishing lines, desalting kit lines) or other gear that could cause entanglement
during rescue. Secure all loose items in the raft. Take down canopies and sails
to ensure a safer pickup. After securing all items, put on your helmet, if
available. Fully inflate your life preserver. Remain in the raft, unless
otherwise instructed, and remove all equipment except the preservers. If
possible, you will receive help from rescue personnel lowered into the water.
Remember, follow all instructions given by the rescue personnel.
If the helicopter recovery is unassisted, do the
following before pickup:
- Secure all the loose equipment in the raft,
accessory bag, or in pockets.
- Deploy the sea anchor, stability bags, and
- Partially deflate the raft and fill it with
- Unsnap the survival kit container from the
- Grasp the raft handhold and roll out of the
- Allow the recovery device or the cable to
ground out on the water's surface.
- Maintain the handhold until the recovery
device is in your other hand.
- Mount the recovery device, avoiding
entanglement with the raft.
- Signal the hoist operator for pickup.
Search planes or ships do not always spot a
drifting raft or swimmer. You may have to land along the coast before being
rescued. Surviving along the seashore is different from open sea survival. Food
and water are more abundant and shelter is obviously easier to locate and
If you are in friendly territory and decide to
travel, it is better to move along the coast than to go inland. Do not leave the
coast except to avoid obstacles (swamps and cliffs) or unless you find a trail
that you know leads to human habitation.
In time of war, remember that the enemy patrols
most coastlines. These patrols may cause problems for you if you land on a
hostile shore. You will have extremely limited travel options in this situation.
Avoid all contact with other humans, and make every effort to cover all tracks
you leave on the shore.
Special Health Hazards
Coral, poisonous and aggressive fish, crocodiles,
sea urchins, sea biscuits, sponges, anemones, and tides and undertow pose
special health hazards.
Coral, dead or alive, can inflict painful cuts.
There are hundreds of water hazards that can cause deep puncture wounds, severe
bleeding, and the danger of infection. Clean all coral cuts thoroughly. Do not
use iodine to disinfect any coral cuts. Some coral polyps feed on iodine and may
grow inside your flesh if you use iodine.
Many reef fish have toxic flesh. For some
species, the flesh is always poisonous, for other species, only at certain times
of the year. The poisons are present in all parts of the fish, but especially in
the liver, intestines, and eggs.
Fish toxins are water soluble--no amount of
cooking will neutralize them. They are tasteless, therefore the standard
edibility tests are use-less. Birds are least susceptible to the poisons.
Therefore, do not think that because a bird can eat a fish, it is a safe species
for you to eat.
The toxins will produce a numbness of the lips,
tongue, toes, and tips of the fingers, severe itching, and a clear reversal of
temperature sensations. Cold items appear hot and hot items cold. There will
probably also be nausea, vomiting, loss of speech, dizziness, and a paralysis
that eventually brings death.
In addition to fish with poisonous flesh, there
are those that are dangerous to touch. Many stingrays have a poisonous barb in
their tail. There are also species that can deliver an electric shock. Some reef
fish, such as stonefish and toadfish, have venomous spines that can cause very
painful although seldom fatal injuries. The venom from these spines causes a
burning sensation or even an agonizing pain that is out of proportion to the
apparent severity of the wound. Jellyfish, while not usually fatal, can inflict
a very painful sting if it touches you with its tentacles. See Chapter 11 and
Appendix F for details on particularly dangerous fish of the sea and seashore.
You should also avoid some ferocious fish. The
bold and inquisitive barracuda has attacked men wearing shiny objects. It may
charge lights or shiny objects at night. The sea bass, which can grow to 1.7
meters, is another fish to avoid. The moray eel, which has many sharp teeth and
grows to 1.5 meters, can also be aggressive if disturbed.
Sea snakes are venomous and sometimes found in
mid ocean. They are unlikely to bite unless provoked. Avoid them.
Crocodiles inhabit tropical saltwater bays and
mangrove-bordered estuaries and range up to 65 kilometers into the open sea. Few
remain near inhabited areas. You commonly find crocodiles in the remote areas of
the East Indies and Southeast Asia. Consider specimens over 1 meter long
dangerous, especially females guarding their nests. Crocodile meat is an
excellent source of food when available.
Sea Urchins, Sea Biscuits, Sponges, and Anemones
These animals can cause extreme, though seldom
fatal, pain. Usually found in tropical shallow water near coral formations, sea
urchins resemble small, round porcupines. If stepped on, they slip fine needles
of lime or silica into the skin, where they break off and fester. If possible,
remove the spines and treat the injury for infection. The other animals
mentioned inflict injury similarly.
Tides and Undertow
These are another hazard to contend with. If
caught in a large wave's undertow, push off the bottom or swim to the surface
and proceed shoreward in a trough between waves. Do not fight against the pull
of the undertow. Swim with it or perpendicular to it until it loses strength,
then swim for shore.
Obtaining food along a seashore should not
present a problem. There are many types of seaweed and other plants you can
easily find and eat. See Chapter 9 and Appendix B for a discussion of these
There is a great variety of animal life that can
supply your need for food in this type of survival situation.
Mussels, limpets, clams, sea snails, octopuses,
squids, and sea slugs are all edible. Shellfish will usually supply most of the
protein eaten by coastal survivors. Avoid the blue-ringed octopus and cone
shells (described in Chapter 11 and Appendix F). Also beware of "red
tides" that make mollusks poisonous. Apply the edibility test on each
species before eating.
Coastal worms are generally edible, but it is
better to use them for fish bait. Avoid bristle worms that look like fuzzy
caterpillars. Also avoid tubeworms that have sharp-edged tubes. Arrowworms,
alias amphioxus, are not true worms. You find them in the sand and are excellent
either fresh or dried.
Crabs, Lobsters, and Barnacles
These animals are seldom dangerous to man and are
an excellent food source. The pincers of larger crabs or lobsters can crush a
man's finger. Many species have spines on their shells, making it preferable to
wear gloves when catching them. Barnacles can cause scrapes or cuts and are
difficult to detach from their anchor, but the larger species are an excellent
These are common and can cause painful injuries
when stepped on or touched. They are also a good source of food. Handle them
with gloves, and remove all spines.
This animal is an important food source in the
Indo-Pacific regions. Use them whole after evisceration or remove the five
muscular strips that run the length of its body. Eat them smoked, pickled, or