Monday, 23 November 2009

Long Term 18th Century Wilderness Survival, Then & Now.

Long Term 18th Century Wilderness Survival, Then & Now.

I know that there are some survival minded people following this blog. I used to teach wilderness survival skills and I still do within our 18th century living History group. So I will start this series of survival posts based on 18th century survival, because I firmly believe that if we are ever placed in a serious long term survival situation through whatever cause, that it is these 300 year old skills that will be the savour of those of us who practice them.

Many years ago in a magazine called “The Buckskin Report” a reader made the same observation. He said that years after any major disaster the only ones surviving would be “Buckskinners”. That is what we do was called back then, Buckskinning.

In this day and age we are used to being able to just walk into any suitable store and purchase what we want, or something close to it. Clothing shops are everywhere, in fact there are so many in each city that I fail to see how any one of them manages to survive, some don’t I guess but there are always enough to serve our wants including the second hand clothing that can be purchased through the local op-shops.

But what would happen if all of a sudden these establishments were no longer there? Just how did people get their clothing on the New World frontier 300 years ago? Well the answer of course is that they made their own clothing. They grew the wool or the flax and they spun it into yarn. Then they wove that yarn into cloth, and with that cloth they made their clothes. Some would have traded for the yarn, some had yarn and went to a weaver to have it woven into cloth. Whichever way it was done they did it themselves.

Those that could not trade and could not grow flax or wool could still have used other native plant materials, or they made their clothing out of leather. This leather was made from the skins of animals and again there was a skill to this craft. Many of these skills have now been forgotten through lack of use. The industrial revolution put an end to cottage industry and sent many once hard working skilled people to the work house!

But now through Living History there is a move to bring back these forgotten skills. Through experimental archaeology many of us are making the tools of an age past and learning how to use them to complete a task. Just as that person said all those years ago, if anyone is going to survive a major long term survival situation, it will be us.

So where do I start? There are a multitude of skills and crafts that I have learnt and practiced in my lifetime and some I guess have priority over others, but only in the short term. Sooner or later they will all become equally as important.

Water: You can last 3 minutes without oxygen, three days without water, and 3 weeks without food. These are rough estimates of course and they depend on the weather, your fitness, your exertion, and your ability to find shade or build a shelter. The water need can be solved by finding water. You look for bands of green vegetation, if you are on the coast you can dig down in the sand in low areas and see if you can find a fresh water seap, the same as you can find water in a dry creek bed in low areas.

Some rock outcroppings can contain rock wells, holes in the rock that hold water. I have found water in the bowls in forks of trees. But in long term wilderness survival you will be looking for a more permanent supply of water. You will be looking for wilderness areas with streams, creeks and rivers and you will be setting up your home not too far away.

Water is life. We are animals called humans. We need water just like any other species of animal. I should imagine even aliens need water but that is a pure assumption and may not be the case. But earth bound animals certainly do need water and where you find water you will find life, game and edible plants. So this then is a basic need for our survival. We need to find a permanent source of water, and then we need to set up home not too far away.

In order to get to where we are going we will need to carry water with us, and I have already covered water bottles and canteens in a previous post. Needless to say in a survival situation where you have to leave home to survive in the wilderness you will be considering modern devices to carry water as well as any 18th century equipment you may have, such as wine carton bladders and plastic bottles.

Bear in mind here that I am not against modern methods or modern equipment in the short term. It is just that I am well aware that they will not last!

When you get to wherever you are going you will need shelter, that too I have recently covered. The one thing I do advise in regard to equipage and food etc, is that everyone in your group be self reliant. I do not recommend that one of a couple carries the oil cloth/oilcloth and the other person carries the food or whatever. If anything should happen to one person, that person and their partner are going to have to go without something. Each person should be fully equipped. That way couples will have two blankets in winter, and a large shelter made from two tarpaulins/oilcloths. The same goes for the children. Those big enough to carry something should be supplied with food, water, and at least a small pure wool blanket.

Before I finish this post I will mention one more item regarding children. In our group we invent games that teach the children survival skills; Simple skills that do not require too much work but skills that may save their lives. These children are used to participating with their parents/guardians in our living history activities and historical treks. IF a real survival situation should ever arise, leaving home and carrying their own equipment on the trail will not be knew to them, there will be no panic and no stress because to them this is NORMAL. Please bear that in mind if you are survival oriented and wish to prepare Just In Case. Involve the whole family. Living History is a good way of doing this because it is seen as playing.


Murphyfish said...

Hi Le Loup,

A very thoughtful and interesting post, I especially like the idea of teaching children survival skills in this manner. I feel that if they understand the basics of ‘real life’ and nature (instead of the life of games consoles etc.) then they should hopefully grow up with a healthy respect for life and not take this ever shrinking world for granted.

Le Loup said...

Totally agree John, and many thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.
Regards, Keith.

benji bard said...

thanx good job.very interested.