Swamp Survival in Georgia, USA
In the American South, bordering Georgia and Florida, lies swampland that is the domain of snakes and alligators. How could anyone last 7 days here alone? Les Stroud, Survivorman, takes on the challenge of showing us what to do in this challenging wilderness. His adventure starts off by being blindfolded and dropped off somewhere along the Altamaha River (the middle of swamp country).
Les’ equipment includes a tin can, rope, a comb, some bubble gum, a credit card, a lighter with no fuel, two pieces of tissue paper, and, of course, his Swiss Army knife. Once he’s taken stock of his supplies, he begins exploring his immediate surroundings. He comes to the conclusion that eventually he’ll need to cross the water to get to safety. For the time being, he’s staying on land and looking for a place to build a shelter. To protect himself from mosquitoes, he covers his face with mud. The mud may have pathogens in it, but protection from the mosquitoes during the night his the more immediate concern.
Les gets through the first night without a fire and without a shelter. His goal for day 2 is to address these two needs. Once he locates a flat area to build a survival shelter, he begins to gather a bunch of sticks and leaves to cover the area where his shelter will be. The plan is to create a controlled burn to kill the ticks and jiggers that are in the ground. Les gathers dry Spanish Moss he finds in trees for kindling. He also rolls up one of the tissues he has in to which he puts some lint he pulls off of his cotton socks. Then with the lighter he is able to get spark that lights the lint which lights the tissue which lights the Spanish moss.
Les begins his search for water. He immediately decides that the swamp water is too scummy and full of pathogens to risk drinking even though he could boil it. An alternative he discovers is a water vine (read more about water from plants). Cutting it and allowing it to drip in to the tin can turns out to be a good, but small source of water.
While the water is collecting, Les locates bark from a Georgia Fatwood so that he can construct a torch. Also, he comes across a Sweet Gum plant that he uses to clean his teeth by first peeling away the bark from small branches and then by brushing his teeth like one would with a toothbrush.
Vines, found throughout the swamp, make for a good rope substitute. Particularly useful for tying the wood together for a shelter which is exactly what Les does. He opts for a fairly tall, lean-to shelter that he covers with leaves to keep the rain out. He expects his fire to keep him warm.
As the sun sets, Les begins constructing a three-prong fish spear. Each prong is shaved smooth with notches in it to grab hold of the fish. During the second night Les once again uses his mud technique to ward off mosquitoes. He also ventures near the water’s edge with his torch to try spearing catfish. He doesn’t manage to catch anything.
Day 3 begins with Les checking the tin where he was collecting water. He has quite a bit and it is safe to drink without boiling. Afterwards, he finds an edible plant (name not mentioned). He pulls out the new shoots and eats the part that comes out of the ground. Dinner will be a frog he manages to catch (cooked over the fire). The legs are edible and the rest makes for good bait.
Les constructs a weir with a funnel trap by the edge of the water. The idea is to funnel a fish or turtle in to the holding area at which point it won’t be able to find its way out. Within the trap he places the leftover frog meat. At this point it’s a wait and see game.
Night 3 turns out be incredibly cold and Les realizes his choice of shelter wasn’t a good one as it isn’t effective in cold weather. On day 4 Les moves ahead with rebuilding an A-frame type shelter. For insulation he collects Spanish moss and covers the ground within his shelter with it.
With his new survival shelter constructed, Les decides to check out his trap. He has caught a big turtle from which he cooks the 4 legs over a fire on the end of sticks.
Les awakens on day 5 and sees frost. His shelter helped, but he was still cold. He begins to consider his options for getting out of the swamp. However, food remains a top priority. He attaches some bait to a spring he has found and then ties the spring to a boot lace on which he has attached a piece of his credit card. And to act as a float he blows a bubble in the gum. He casts his creation in to the water and waits (he never catches anything).
To get out of the swamp, he’s going to need to build a raft. This requires some large logs. These are tied together with vines. While collecting wood, he comes across a rattlesnake that he clubs to death — dinner, once gutted and beheaded.
Day 6 begins with continued work on the raft. It needs to be tested so he carries it out to the river. It floats, but it doesn’t support his weight so it’s back to the drawing board — more wood and a wider craft. The day is otherwise uneventful.
On day 7, Les heads out on his new and improved second raft. This one works although he often needs to get off and go in to the water to push the raft along. It’s slow going and before making it to safety he is spotted by his crew.