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July 30, 2012 7:07 PM   Subscribe

The Castaway's Guide To Making A Home: What do people do when they're shipwrecked on a deserted isle?
posted by Chrysostom (39 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Descend into madness and worship a conch shell? Befriend a volleyball?
posted by elizardbits at 7:10 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gradually, it became clear that Cape Flora had been inhabited by multiple parties at different times. Some had built their own shelters, while others used what they found. Each group of explorers had left its own layer of detritus. Some left inscriptions; others, only mounds of trash. Nothing remained from the Stella Polare but a stone obelisk honoring their dead in gold letters.

Oh man the idea of a remote island that keeps getting inhabited and then abandoned and then re-discovered over and over again is really interesting to me.
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


After determining the hole in the boat cannot be fixed with the available tools, I construct a radio out of coconuts.
posted by DU at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Normally my reaction to finding myself on a strange island is to punch some trees, make a pick-axe and carve out some shelter before nightfall)
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 PM on July 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


Find a monkey, train him to be a talking bartender, have him make me a drink.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man the idea of a remote island that keeps getting inhabited and then abandoned and then re-discovered over and over again is really interesting to me.


Every desert island in the Pacific is like that. The Polynesians left no stone unturned. Really throws a wet blanket on desert island fantasy to realize that for every island the Polynesians didn't settle permanently, there was a reason.
posted by ocschwar at 7:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


A real life Robinson Carusoe Tom Neale of Suvarov
posted by pdxpogo at 7:28 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


In all seriousness.

Step 1 is making something VERY BIG and VERY NOT NATURAL on a big flat spot. You know, like "HELP" or "SOS".

Step 2 is making rum.

(Okay, I ran out of seriousness there. Here's more.)

Step 2 is some sort of shelter from the sun, esp. if you're a pasty white guy like me. The Sun is EVIL and must be avoided.

Step 3 is fire, because you'll be surprised how cold you'll get, and fire can signal for help, and it helps with steps 4 and 5.

Step 4 is water. You have three days to get drinkable water. You really don't want to go beyond two. The reason fire is before water is fire, and a pot, can fix water -- that is, water that may not be safe to drink can be boiled to make it safe, or if you have lots of the right wreckage, can be distilled from seawater.

Step 5 is rum, since you've built a distillery.

(NO....)

Step 5 is food. With water, fire and a bit of metal hammered into a pot, you can, if in doubt, chop bits of flesh off of random animal you have caught and make the world's worst soup -- but it'll feed you. A splash of seawater will make it better. Knowing how to cook, of course, will make it even better yet. That trick with the stone won't help unless you are shipwrecked with a large group that has an odd selection of carry-on luggage.

Step 6 is improved shelter. Getting off the ground to sleep is a big win. Having somewhere dry to be if you're in a monsoon belt is useful.

Step 7 is, if you haven't been rescued, probably a good one for rum. And, if you have lime and coconuts, you make a radio put the lime in the coconut with the rum and drink it all down. NUM!

Step 8 is to have some English woman set fire to all the rum, which apparently can summon the Royal Navy from leagues away.
posted by eriko at 7:39 PM on July 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


For a themed party I was contributing a media project to a few years ago, I ended up watching the entire run of Gilligan's Island over the course of much less than a week.

I know more about this topic than any of you can possibly imagine.
posted by hippybear at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


This comes at the crappiest possible time for my computer to quit running Minecraft.
(Seriously? Error: Could not create the Java Virtual Machine ? What does that even MEAN!?)
posted by The otter lady at 7:48 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. The inhabitants of this desert island were going out of their minds because we didn't have a Home Depot. Once we got one of those, they started in about Target.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:56 PM on July 30, 2012


ocschwar: "Every desert island in the Pacific is like that. The Polynesians left no stone unturned. Really throws a wet blanket on desert island fantasy to realize that for every island the Polynesians didn't settle permanently, there was a reason"

The archaeological literature on Polynesia has a great term for these places that were settled and then abandoned: Mystery Islands. Jinkies, Scoob!

From Hawaii to New Zealand you've got a pretty wide range of latitudes, but mostly there were two kinds of mystery island: small atolls and coral islands in the tropics and high basaltic islands in the subtropics that were larger, but which lacked a lot of good faunal food resources.
posted by barnacles at 8:02 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you liked this article, check out the book, "Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Have Never Visited and Never Will."
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


(Nice job with the title of this post!)
posted by agog at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


"If you liked this article, check out the book, 'Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Have Never Visited and Never Will.'"

Holy moly — did that ever jump from a MeFi comment to my Amazon Wish List quicker than a quick thing which is very quick.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The part that mentioned that the stranded crew made a forge with which to make tools and nails really contrasts with modern castaways*.

The advent of technology has so distanced the average modern person, even the average sailor, such that there are people who are "proud" that they can't even assemble IKEA flat-pack furniture.

Yeah, there was the story of the guy who couldn't catch a wild goat, but how many people today could - and know how to clean the carcass and render the meat for safe consumption and storage?

If a modern seacrew was stranded with a modern seavessel of about the same size and class as mentioned here (assuming GPS, satellite phone, radio, &c. were all damaged in a freak electrical storm or something), how much utility could be salvaged from the vessel with tools at hand compared to back then?

*The odds of being a castaway has probably dramatically decreased since the advent of powered and more reliable seavessels and radio (so even if you do get stranded, your signalling range is far superior to a bonfire, providing you can even start one)
posted by porpoise at 8:21 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I went to grad school with that bro!
posted by liketitanic at 8:46 PM on July 30, 2012


...said liketitanic. I know there's the mefi (or metachat, to properly credit) word for this phenomenon that begins with the letter 'e', but as I'm stranded on a desert island I feel actually using it would be a waste of otherwise valuable resources, resources that would be better spent going towards helping make a car out of bamboo or a boat out of a hut. Smart, I am.
posted by item at 9:03 PM on July 30, 2012


My plan is to get eliminated as early as possible so I can hang out at Ponderosa at the expense of Mark Burnett and CBS for as long as possible.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]



Yeah, there was the story of the guy who couldn't catch a wild goat, but how many people today could - and know how to clean the carcass and render the meat for safe consumption and storage?

Dear AskMeFi, Thanks to your advice (see my previous post here) I managed to catch a goat. Yay! Now, what do I do with it? Do I need to get the skin off or something? What parts are best to eat? Can't believe I'm asking this ... [more inside]
posted by Catch at 9:27 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't believe I'm asking this ...

This is what YouTube is great for. And for rabbit.

How to twist rope from grass, likely very useful for castaways.

Atlatl's and a rock tied to a string are surprisingly effective hunting tools with practice.
posted by porpoise at 9:58 PM on July 30, 2012


First, punch a tree and get at least four logs. Once you've got your workbench set up, coal for torches is the biggest thing to find before night comes...
posted by Scattercat at 10:21 PM on July 30, 2012


coal for torches is the biggest thing to find before night comes...

...because they mostly come at night. Mostly.
posted by hippybear at 10:23 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


eriko: "And, if you have lime and coconuts, you make a radio put the lime in the coconut with the rum and drink it all down. NUM!"

And then you call your doctor, wake him up, and ask him if there ain't nothing you can take to relieve this belly flipper ache?
posted by IndigoRain at 11:07 PM on July 30, 2012


Hasenbosch was afraid to write down his name, let alone tell us anything about making a house on a desert island.
posted by mattoxic at 11:09 PM on July 30, 2012


The article sounds fascinating, because I've always had desert island fantasies, but what a shitty, broken site for iPads.
posted by 6550 at 11:10 PM on July 30, 2012


What do people do when they're shipwrecked on a deserted isle?

They read their copies of Shakespeare, the Bible and the other book they were allowed to take with them, listen to their eight favourite pieces of music, while reflecting on the long and storied careers that led to this honour?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:32 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Step 8 is to have some English woman set fire to all the rum, which apparently can summon the Royal Navy from leagues away.

Wait wait wait. If I'm trapped on a desert island with Keira Knightley, well, let's just say that changes my focus *considerably*.


I was curious about the tiny cabin the guy lived in, was sort of hoping he'd go into more explanation/detail at some point, because it sounds like the kind of place I would love to live.

I was also reminded of my experience with driftwood construction - granted, it's not a deserted island (though I've been out there in winter and it sure gets pretty ghost-town-ish) but some years ago or so I was hiking around on Block Island, and down a ways past the Mohegan Bluffs I stumbled across an elaborate yet surprisingly sturdy multi-level shack made entirely out of driftwood. Pretty sure it was made by some bored kids during the summer - or maybe gradually over several summers - but I was still duly impressed. Sadly when I went back to find it again a couple years later, the whole thing had been utterly erased by winter storms and/or hurricanes.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:10 AM on July 31, 2012


Wait! There was supposed to be a link in there, I put my pictures of the driftwood shack up on Flickr.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:13 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You must be signed in to see this content from smatt650."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:18 AM on July 31, 2012


Dear mefi, my goat has been out in the grass for several hours, is it still safe to eat?
posted by -harlequin- at 12:22 AM on July 31, 2012


And, if you have lime and coconuts, you make a radio

Five words: The Nightmare of Milky Joe.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 12:39 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ooops, posted too fast. Skip to 10:30 if you want to cut to the action. Things get surreal real fast...
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 12:41 AM on July 31, 2012


Dear AskMeFi, Thanks to your advice (see my previous post here) I managed to catch a goat. Yay! Now, what do I do with it? Do I need to get the skin off or something?

Some of you will undoubtedly thank me one day, because I will now reveal the proper way to skin a desert island wild goat: You make a cut in the skin near the ankle, about 2-3cm long and BLOW.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:31 AM on July 31, 2012


No, guys, if you have de lime and de coconut, you drink em both togedder, den you feel bedder.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:24 AM on July 31, 2012


> Step 1 is making something VERY BIG and VERY NOT NATURAL on a big flat spot. You know, like "HELP" or "SOS".

"I'M IN A BIT OF A KERFUFFLE AND DEAR OH DEAR WHAT A TO DO"
posted by Sutekh at 6:43 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know how to skin a goat, don't you, Steve? you just [
make a cut in the skin near the ankle, about 2-3cm long,] put your lips together . . . and BLOW.
posted by Herodios at 7:08 AM on July 31, 2012


Well, when it happened to me I spent most of my days playing my selection of eight records, and reading the Bible and Shakespeare.
posted by Decani at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2012


I'd happily trade the Bible for Gravity's Rainbow, but upon consideration think that Shakespeare, if you have the whole lot of it, is probably a worthwhile second thing to have to read.
posted by hippybear at 6:07 PM on August 1, 2012


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