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,
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 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 support?
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 fuel ignites.
- 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
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
- Breaststroke. 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.
- Sidestroke. It is a good
relief stroke because you use only one arm to
maintain momentum and buoyancy.
- Backstroke. 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 burning--
- Discard your shoes and buoyant
Note: If you have an uninflated
life preserver, keep it.
- Cover your nose, mouth, and
eyes and quickly go underwater.
- 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 dehydration.
- 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
- 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 16-6).
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 strafing.
- 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,
- 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
- 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
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
Hot Weather Considerations
If you are in a hot climate--
- Rig a sunshade or canopy. Leave
enough space for ventilation.
- 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
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 again.
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 lower profile.
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 (Figure 16-9).
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 16-10).
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 16-13).
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
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
- Remove your life preserver and
tether it to yourself so that it trails behind
- 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 16-17).
Immediately tighten the equalizer
clamp upon entering the raft to prevent deflating
the entire raft in case of a puncture (Figure 16-18).
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
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
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 only water.
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,
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 rainwater.
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
Do not drink seawater.
Do not drink urine.
Do not drink alcohol.
Do not smoke.
Do not eat, unless water
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
- 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
- Fish lures. You can fashion
lures by attaching a double hook to any shiny
piece of metal.
- Grapple. 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.
- Bait. 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 and spines.
- 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 sharp instruments.
- 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 attracts fish.
- 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
- 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.
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
Seasickness is the nausea and vomiting
caused by the motion of the raft. It can result
- Extreme fluid loss and exhaustion.
- Loss of the will to survive.
- Others becoming seasick.
- Attraction of sharks to the
- 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
- 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
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 Chapter
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
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 waters.
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
- 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 island.
In the tropics, the reflection
of sunlight from shallow lagoons or shelves of coral
reefs often causes a greenish tint in the sky.
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
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 large wave.
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 beach it.
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
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
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
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
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 accessory bag.
- Partially deflate the raft and
fill it with water.
- Unsnap the survival kit container
from the parachute harness.
- Grasp the raft handhold and
roll out of the raft.
- 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
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 construct.
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
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.
Coral, poisonous and aggressive
fish, crocodiles, sea urchins, sea biscuits, sponges,
anemones, and tides and undertow pose special health
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
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
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 plants.
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 food source.
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 cooked.