One spring afternoon in 1943, Louie Zamperini came crashing out of the sky in his WWII-era bomber plane and landed in the Pacific Ocean. He remained there for 47 days, floating at sea in a life raft. Author Laura Hillenbrand traces Zamperini’s story in Unbroken, which follows his life through to his miraculous rescue () Should you find yourself similarly inconvenienced at sea, we asked two survival experts for their tips on how to brave the odds. For best results, print this before you embark.
Remain Calm. Really.
“Fear is pretty disabling. If you’re afraid of something, your temptation is to turn away from it—to look away from it, whether it’s an emotional situation or a physical thing. Think about your own life. … As soon as you turn away from reality you become less competent. Survivors are people who are comfortable with reality and its uncertainties.” —Clint Willis, editor of Adrenaline Books, which has published 30 anthologies on rescue and survival.
Memorize the Fearsome Five
“The threats to survival are known by the pneumonic ‘Fearsome Five:’ food, fluids, fitness, Fahrenheit, and fatigue.” —Dr. Michael Jacobs, marine first aid expert and co -author of
Combat the Wind
“It’s super-important to get some wind shelter. Get something between you and the wind, whether it’s a jacket or a tree or a piece of tent.” —Willis
Assess Your Ailments
“It can be a triage situation, where you say, ‘What do I have to do right now?’ You check out your physical health. ‘Am I bleeding a lot? Am I cold? What do I do about that?’ It’s the same thing as first aid stuff. You deal with the most pressing stuff and then you move on. …[D]on’t try to do everything at once.” —Willis
Invest in Electronics
“If I found myself unexpectedly in a life raft, I would want to have an EPIRB, an electronic position indicator beacon. That works off a signal that’s picked up by satellite that’s transmitted to a rescue coordination center. If you ask me, what’s the signal most important device, I would want a rescue beacon.” —Jacobs
But If You Didn’t Buy the Beacon…
“There are about a hundred things you can do with duct tape. Having duct tape can help you repair a raft [or] a canopy, [or] you can create shelter—a whole host of things. And mirrors are very useful for signaling a boat or aircraft in the area.” —Jacobs
Don’t Be a Baby—Or a Control Freak
“The control freaks and the babies die. The ones who need to know what’s going on right now, or at least pretend they do, so they can control the situation—they probably die first. Then the babies die next, because they’re the ones saying, ‘I can’t deal with this! I’m going to wait for somebody to save me.’” —Willis
Be Glad It’s Not the ’60s
“The odds of being lost at sea for a sustained period of time now are really much more remote. Life rafts have very advanced signaling devices and portable water makers. You still need to have your wits about you and be prepared to survive on your own for a couple of days, but it probably won’t be a couple of weeks.”