Survival is about skill and the `will to live', says ex-SAS author

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LOFTY WISEMAN, author of The SAS Survival Handbook and a former SAS instructor in survival techniques, said yesterday that living in the wild, even in this country, is a gruelling ordeal.

The toughest part, however, is not the physical but the mental endurance. Mr Wiseman believes survival is 85 per cent down to the "will to live". Basic skills and resourcefulness are necessary, too, he said

You can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. "Water is a first priority," he said. It should always be boiled because 90 per cent of all ailments in the wild are caused by drinking bad water. Once you find water, you will have food because there will be fish, plants nearby and animals will be attracted to the area. But it is important not to be picky. "A common worm gives you 75 per cent of the highest protein available," said Mr Wiseman.

"Basically, if it creeps, crawls, swims or flies, it is a source of food. Even rabbits that have myxomatosis are fine to eat after they have been stripped and boiled. And remember, a snake is a steak. Nettles are really nutritious, but you must boil them first to destroy the toxin. Pine resin is great for temporary fillings."

Food, in order of nutrition, consists of plants, fungi, insects, fish, game, and nuts, fruits and berries. You can live for 28 days on plants alone, but after that you need proteins and fats for tissue regrowth. Everyone must have a survival tin containing a flint, cotton wool, a compass, a small saw, needles, strong wire, matches, plasters, and basic medication. Medically, you have to be your own doctor.

To be able to survive anywhere in the world you need to be know about fire, shelter, water, navigation and medicine. "The order of priority is always the same, demonstrated by the acronym PLAN," said Mr Wiseman. "`P' is for protection from danger. It is important to build a shelter and light a fire. `L' is for location, which means it is important to put signals out if you want to be found. `A' is for acquisition of food and water, and `N' is for navigation."

While the "will to live" is a basic instinct, it is becoming weaker as we become more civilised. "A lot of children would rather not venture outside but play computer games instead," said Mr Wiseman. "If they ever found themselves lost in the wilderness they would find it very difficult indeed."

Much of Mr Wiseman's words sound like a class in positive thinking. Both fear and pain are helpful provided they are put to good use, he said. "Everyone has fear. It's a natural emotion and very positive because it stops you doing silly things. When you get into a state of anxiety you secrete adrenaline, which makes you stronger."