True North Blog

A Real World Lesson in Survival

A Real World Lesson in Survival

Last week, I relayed the story of Heather Barnes, a college student studying marine biology, who had just survived 16 hours treading water in the blazing sun, all the while being stung by jellyfish, after being swept out to sea off the coast of Honduras.

Her story is a good one.  Certainly because it ended happily, but also because she offers us many good lessons for the time when we might need to fight for our lives.

What are the lessons?  It is helpful mix of what to do, but, maybe more importantly, what NOT to do.  For such a smart woman, she did several really dumb things that created her problem in the first place.  But, then again, we all could have probably made the same mistakes, and I’m not so sure that I could have lasted as long as she did to make it back to shore.

Anyway, here is a video that will give you a good overview of what happened.  Plus, it offers us a good example of PMA … Positive Mental Attitude.  After all, PMA is the overarching priority in any survival situation.

What is the main takeaway from Heather’s story?  Don’t be fooled by the fact that just because she was lost at sea that this isn’t a wilderness survival story.  “Wilderness” is defined as anywhere where you are “one or more hours from definitive medical  care.”  Thus, a wilderness survival situation can develop, not just while hiking in the desert or climbing a mountain, but, as has been repeatedly shown by actual events, being lost at sea in a damaged boat, or stranded in a car along a Pennsylvania Interstate in a snow storm with hundreds of other people around, or sitting on the roof of a house following a super storm that has flooded the region.  Heather’s struggle, then, conveys many valuable lessons that we can employ anywhere we may need to deal with an acute wilderness emergency.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook.

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