Survival Skills: How to Stay Alive in Costal Habitats

The coastal areas of our planet present an amazing array of ecosystems, and with this variety are many helpful resources and some dangers as well, should we find ourselves stranded there.

The idea of surviving on a beach reminds me of Robinson Crusoe, and all of the other lost sailor stories I have heard over the years. Shelter and food usually aren't the biggest hurdles for these survivors. It is all the little things that cause the worst problems.

Coastal Dangers - Using the resources of the sea and land require you to put yourself in harm's way to get these commodities. On land, you may need to watch out for the local poisonous snakes and insects. In the surf, you may get hammered into sharp rocks or coral. Further out in the water, sharks are a danger to swimmers and fishermen.

However, if we look at the most likely dangers to a survivor, they are not as dramatic as shark bites and exotic deadly snakes. Dehydration, poisoning by eating the wrong plants, and infections are much more likely to harm or kill someone than all of the exciting hazards combined.

Coastal Resources - Let's say you got lucky and found a stream of fresh water pouring out into the bay or ocean where you are stranded. That sure beats the alternative, which is trying to desalinate the sea water. Since you can't boil the salt out of water, you'll have to create steam and capture the steam in a way that condenses it back into water. A high tech approach is to build a solar still, but you'll need clear plastic sheeting, and constant sea breeze can tear your solar still apart. The low tech option is even more laborious than fighting a solar still. You'll need to boil the salt water in an open vessel with a piece of cotton towel or cloth suspended a few inches over the container top. The steam will condense in the cloth, which you can wring out and drink. The down side is that it only catches a few drops at a time. Like I said, let's hope there's a stream or a lot of rain.

Seafood abounds in many coastal areas, but you will need to do your homework as some fish and shellfish are toxic to humans. Many seaweed species are edible, but again - do your homework before you start chowing down.

Grasses and palms make thatching for huts, and soft bedding to sleep on (bug infested, but soft).

The local geology is washed off and on display for you to make stone tools, if you have nothing else to work with. Shells can also provide you with both tools and containers.

Drift wood can be a ready source of firewood, but getting it started can be difficult. Use Palm fiber and palm scales to get the blaze going, and while you're at it - make three fires in a row on the beach. This creates a great signal to call for rescue, visible to both sea vessels and aircraft.