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My Ultimate Guide to Surviving The Island, Bear Grylls-Style

Tags: island women
Having only five days ago butchered my first AS maths exam, I've come to the realisation that I'm in desperate need of a drastic change in career path - preferably one that doesn't involve reading, numbers or square roots. Seriously! I mean, who obtains an answer of 5√2 for the radius of a circle but then decides to Pythag 2√5?

You guessed it... Goodbye academic dreams, hello Jobcentre.

As it just so happens, with the return (or rather conclusion) of Ch4's BAFTA-winning 'The Island' I thought I'd surprise you with my ultimate guide to desert island survival, as inspired by the midweek television programme narrated by none other than extreme-survival expert Bear Grylls. I'm no professional, but I can safely say that I have the ability to start a cracking fire and would probably even drink my own urine - if push came to shove of course!

If you've yet to watch an episode, last series concluded with a passionate recital of the poem Invictus, delivered by one of my favourite and arguably one of the strongest-willed male contestants, Sackie. Notwithstanding the recent television award, along with the news of renewal for what is sure to be a third compelling series, there has however been a lot of criticism and controversy surrounding the show.

Contrary to the flimsy animal welfare disputes we've seen in the press recently, critics of the show didn't have much to complain about last year, with one of the most significant resulting outcomes being that there are now two islands - one for 14 British men and one for 14 British women to separately inhabit for a duration of 6, dare I say, arduous weeks.

As hinted to above, killjoys this time round have been voicing their protest over the slaughter of animals as being a 'callous disregard for life' despite the fact that all contestants received prior training in how to cause the least amount of suffering possible when dispatching of an animal, plus do themselves need to eat a substantial meal every once in a while.

I wonder how long those attacking the programme could last on a meagre diet of a few slices of coconut, complemented by but a handful of unappetising limpets? Six weeks is a deceptively long duration.

Moreover, how can they possibly claim that it's 'sending a harmful message to younger viewers'?! If anything, we're merely being made more aware of the realities of survival, only on a much smaller scale. I mean, where do people actually think meat comes from? It certainly doesn't grow on trees, fully packaged and ready to be tossed in a microwave. Surely no one could be that naive.

Someone please enlighten me as to how killing a pig so that you don't starve to death is any better than driving a bolt through one's head so that you can make a bacon sarnie, or hacking the head off a snake? I, personally, would much prefer eating meat in the knowledge that I would have the skills required to hunt and kill it, if absolutely necessary. And the death threats certain contestants have received! In my eyes it's far worse than pathetic, inexcusable even; it's downright disgusting.

I also wanted to highlight the fact that at the rate the current contestants were going, I truly believed that there'd be but a handful of them left who would see the challenge through to the end! I fully appreciate that from the comfort of your own sofa 6 weeks in tropical paradise without the stresses of work and school sounds almost heavenly - when in reality it's far from it - however, in my opinion, deciding to leave in less than a week simply shows a true weakness of character; especially if it comes as a result of a petty argument or supposed 'need' for a glass of wine.

If you couldn't tell, the above is one thing that's frustrated me beyond belief, along with the sound of certain women repeatedly whingeing. Of course, not all those who left the show did so without putting up a valiant fight, however it's evident that some are far more willing to put the effort in than others, which is arguably one of the most important aspects of survival. If you've a willingness to survive, you most probably will.

Rant over, here's what I'd do:

So, first things first, unless you're either stark-raving mad or an aspiring Steve Irwin, you probably won't want to remain anywhere near the caiman-infested swamp in which you're so very kindly abandoned for much longer than is absolutely necessary. As we saw with great emphasis on the womens' island, a little less so when it came to the men, pleasantries and introductions may be better saved for later, once the essentials have been taken care of.

A recurring theme of agonising extents was the initial issue of navigation, or rather lack of when it came to the women's' faction, which made for pretty painful viewing. I'm hardly one to talk when it comes to travelling in the correct direction however I have got one top tip that may well prove to be a success on The Island. It's so sound that even the producers of the Scorpion series decided to include it in an episode.

One thing's for sure - you sure as hell want to find a beach on which to set up camp, and quickly too. But then there's the problem of deciding on which direction to head off in. Thinking about it logically, the show's filmed off the coast of Panama, so the most likely place to find a welcoming sandy stretch would be to the east/north-east side of the island. Then comes the issue of how best to get there, but fortunately that's where my (rare) stroke of pure genius comes in.

I'd strongly suggest following the coastline, so as to prevent trekking through the jungle interior for days on end as we saw the women do in search of a better setting to call 'home.' But how can you tell east from west so near the equator? I suppose there is an element of luck, however there's a trick you can pull off with a watch, or stick if you're feeling particularly primeval.

As basically as I can explain it, you direct XII toward the sun and then bisect the angle between that and the hour hand. This then gives you the direction in which the Southern Pole is located and so you can work out your bearings from there, all the while ensuring that you avoid any unexpected introductions with potentially dangerous jungle critters. Clever, eh?

No matter how tempting the warm, pacific water may be, the first thing you should be thinking about once you find your picturesque safe-haven is the lighting of a fire, rather than letting your hair down and going for a swim. And no, that isn't just because I'm a self-confessed pyromaniac who's attempting to impose an aquatic boycott; I personally think a fierce fire is one of the key elements of survival, a lifeline even. *see edit below

Ideally you'll want to have achieved all this within the first 12 or so hours so that the next day you can set about finding a sustainable water source. You'll also want to consider protecting your fire from the elements, but obviously so long as the tropical rain hasn't beaten you to it. Fortunately for the aforementioned bellicose environmentalists, I'm confident that my recent advancements in engineering knowledge would finally pay dividends, since I now know all there is to know when it comes to mitigating potential adverse effects on the environment during construction.

Please, don't ask how many times I've had to use that phrase. I'm pretty sure the individual letters have been successively etched into the very depths of my brain, more pronounced with every use of each word. But despite this eternal token that resembles 6 months of continuous stress, extreme hard work and perseverance, mitigation of the environment with regard to the M4 Corridor in and around Newport is one expression I'd rather never hear of again. Ever.

Remaining on the topic of improvised Island structures nevertheless, although it's not initially imperative, a sturdy shelter could really make your time all the more enjoyable. This is where the arrangement of morning meetings truly is a great idea - that way everyone is made aware of what needs doing, but more importantly who's doing what exactly, so that no task is left unmanned.

The shelter itself doesn't have to be anything extravagant, just something to raise you off the unforgiving terrain and prevent native Transylvanian pests from feasting on your skin while you sleep. It really did frustrate me that the women left it until the last week or so to consider making proper headway on their camp. Just think about all those monstrous sandfly bites that could have been prevented. Maybe then Jaime would have stopped whining for once... Although I highly doubt it.

Is it wrong to agree with one of the girls in saying that the experiment has shown what women are good at, such leaving things until the last minute? Please, if you don't share my sense of humour, take no offence. If anything, with regard to most things - especially homework - that makes my brother more of a woman than any of those who appeared on The Island!

I have to commend the girls though. I would have been utterly disappointed to leave that camp behind, since it truly did embody all that they'd collectively achieved. Furthermore, Lauren's cup song and concluding voiceover was almost as inspiring as last series's very fitting poem recital I mentioned at the very beginning of this post. The words of both individuals gave me almighty goosebumps and even more of a desire to be 18, primarily so that I can myself apply for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can only hope it doesn't get discontinued before at least the fourth series. **

Now, seeing as all this talk of hard graft is making me v. hungry, with regard to food in a survival situation, I'd eat absolutely anything that moves. If it has a pulse, it's a potential meal. It's vitally important to take every opportunity, especially in view of the fact that we saw the women in particular so many times watch helplessly as their dinner escaped very much alive and kicking, with its heart still beating in its chest, and from what I've heard I'm not too convinced that limpets are an Island delicacy.

Sam's nets really did reap the rewards after causing so much initial conflict within camp, although it was such a shame to see so many potential calories go to waste when the fish had been left trapped for far too long. Nevertheless, they provided the men with a feast when compared to previous meals and I was especially happy that the triumph helped re-earn the man at least some respect from the rest of the group.

Although it pleased me that most decisions were agreed on collectively, it can certainly help to have a leading figure who ensures that everything is kept in check. Just as it seemed someone was taking the initiative to help the group remain functioning as one unit in the wake of certain fractures beginning to form, I was absolutely gutted (no fish-related pun intended) to see Will leave on medical grounds.

It's almost universally accepted that quieter people naturally fail to attract as much attention as the more vocal ones, however Will's actions really did speak volumes.

Take the 50-something year old builder, Andy, for example. His whole attitude to the experience annoyed the life out of me, however Will refused to let it irritate him and instead helped to build the other man a decent bed in hope that a good night's sleep would convince him to stay. The gesture may have failed in its purpose, however it was a truly heart-warming gesture nonetheless.

I didn't intend on doing an in-depth analysis of certain individuals, but then there's Vic. Vic is a strange character. I initially saw him as an upbeat northerner who refused to buckle under the difficulties of The Island, however as the experiment went on and fewer members of the group were pulling their own weight, relying solely on him for food and yet appearing to fail in completing firewood duties, he quite understandably grew rather disgruntled.

This confrontational atmosphere remained for what appeared to be quite a while until there was a blindingly obvious point at which something inside of the cleaning facilities manager snapped. We then see the somewhat more dark side to his personality which I'd much rather not attempt to decipher. Thankfully he now appears to be more like his old, dynamic, self; which can only be a good thing when he's undoubtedly your best hunter.

So that's it! What a privileged it must have been to be free to live with the sole aim of surviving. Or is that just me? Either way, I find it fascinating to see how the experience completely strips back personalities to their fundamental elements. It's almost a strange, real-life realisation of Lord of the Flies.

And on that note, I wish the best of luck to anyone who's got a GCSE English exam this week, or any exam for that matter. I won't sugar-coat it, but can advise that a few of the Hitler exam reaction videos on YouTube really do make this period slightly more bearable. Sun helps too, but trying to get a decent tan in the UK so far this year has been like attempting to survive Year 12 whilst fighting a ferocious lion with nothing but an AS Physics textbook and your bear hands - near on impossible!

** As requested by my school friend, with whom I share a certain liking for Lauren, I've decided to delve a little deeper into what it is exactly that makes her such a likeable character. It's only fair, especially since she and Beth made up the main driving force of the women's island, and were two of the few women who actually pushed for certain tasks to be done.

If you take natural good-looks and enchanting blue eyes out of the equation, Lauren appears to have an all-or-nothing personality, which is certainly by no means a bad thing. It was clear for all to see, both on The Island and also during her failed row across the Atlantic, how determined she was to continue fighting without ever throwing the towel in, and I think that's the aspect of her psyche that I'm drawn to most.

As Lauren saw it, they were abandoned on that island for six weeks, and leaving was by no means an option to even consider. All they could therefore do was give their goddamn best in attempting to both survive and thrive. She was also only woman who had the resolve to put herself on the line when it came to slaughtering the pigs, so that she and the other women could eat. Whatever your view on the animal controversy, you have to commend her for that.

Kyle's idea of using a pair of glasses to focus the intensity of the sunlight to a point on the men's kindling was a great idea, and I myself can confirm that a small pile of dried lavender and a magnifying glass will do the same trick in the back garden of a house in the UK. Not that I'm admitting to have ever done it, Mummy.

She won't suspect a thing... It's the pungent smell of burning grass clinging to the fabric of recently washed clothes that'll get you busted.

This post first appeared on Swim-Eat-Sleep, please read the originial post: here

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My Ultimate Guide to Surviving The Island, Bear Grylls-Style


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