Monday, July 24, 2006
This is a pic from a survival exercise I did during second year at Selkirk College when I attended the Aviation Technology program. Click on it to make it bigger.
On January 5th 1989, we went up into the bush for 5 days with the contents of a survival kit and attempted to survive. The first night, it was -29. I'm just behind Paul Dixon, the guy in the red long underwear. Apparently I'm about to chew on his left shoulder, I dunno. Notice the long hair I had at the time - a guy in second year actually passed out a petition to attempt to force me to cut it. He went on to become Chief Pilot of a large medevac company, who then went bankrupt. Serves him right for trying to cramp my style ;)
The survival trip was an experience all right. We were split up into groups of 4 people and marched into the bush somewhere around the Christian Valley, near Midway BC. We spent the first day trying to build a warm shelter, which meant when the outside temp was -29, inside it was only -19 or so. Between the 4 of us, we had a single package of expired life-raft cookies for the 5 days. It's truly amazing how useless your standard survival kit is on most small aircraft. We had a tiny saw, a tarp, a foil blanket, the aforementioned food, a compass, a mirror, some teabags and a few packs of sugar.
At night, we'd go in 2-hour shifts, watching the fire. We weren't allowed to cut wood after dark - too dangerous - so we had to cut enough wood during the day to last all night. That's a lot more work than you'd think, especially when you only have a little tiny axe.
During the day the instructors told us that in a real survival situation we were to rest and conserve as much energy as possible, but because this was a training experience we did a lot of trekking through the woods, with the instructors randomly yelling "airplane, airplane" whereupon we attempted to be the first group to make a signal fire and get smoke above the trees.
It was pretty interesting - a lot of the guys I went to flight school with were rich boys from Vancouver who hadn't ever slept outdoors before, and it was a lot harder on them than me. Some of them refused to go to the bathroom outdoors and attempted to hold it for 5 days. I'm not even going to get into how that ended up for them...
There were no major injuries, but a lot of the people had significant conflict with their survival mates, whether it was aruging over food or whose turn it was to watch the fire or who got the sweet spot in our shelter that was closest to the fire. In real life, remind me to bring a handgun, rendering my argument the most compelling.
I didn't change clothes for 5 days, and when we were finally done and made it back home, I burned everything I was wearing. I also suffered from acne at the time, and let me tell you, after 5 days of wearing a wool toque over my face and not washing, I looked pretty rough. Overall it was an adventure, but not a fun one - more like one of those stories that gets better when you talk about it years later, but actually really sucked at the time. Still, when I saw this pic it brought back a fond memory. Most of the guys in this pic are with Air Canada, and all but 2 are flying as a career. I really enjoyed my time at Selkirk College and made some lifetime friendships. Oh, and learned a few things about how to fly planes :)