In honor of the upcoming release of Ridley Scott’s film, The Martian (2015), it seemed necessary to ponder the idea of survival of what seems like the ‘impossible’. The typical stories of how this situation occurs is that you are travelling somewhere, inventing something that can take you somewhere, or just standing somewhere as someone walks by with an offer. The next thing you know a storm hits, the portal or whatever invention you made drops you off, or that guy turns out to be a demon or some evil guy bent on your destruction or is just trying to get a good laugh from your misfortune. With any of these scenarios, you are trapped, alone, and need to start to use those innate survival instincts that you probably never thought you would ever use. To survive this, you are going to need the following; wit (common sense), understanding of the place you’re trapped in (can you build and pilot you ship made of sticks and duct tape?), and basic survival skills (get ready to skin your first squirrel and eat berries you hope aren’t poisonous).
You have just landed in this place of isolation, maybe an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000), space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity (2013), or trapped under a rock by your hand like James Franco in 127 Hours (2010). Out of these three situations you will possibly be hairier, experiencing symptoms of PTSD, or left handed (depending on which arm was crushed by the boulder). This experience is going to scar you somewhere, so to survive this situation, you first have to accept that the impossible has happened, and you better find your way to sanity before you’re killed by whatever animal or civilization sees you as dinner (unless there actually is no one). If there’s no one, then try to look for wreckage (from the plane or whatever you took to get to purgatory) and salvage what you can, unless there is no wreckage. If there is no wreckage, then check what you personally have; phone, lighter (are you a smoker?), knife, rope? Anything you have can be transformed into a possibility for your survival, you just need to know how to use it right.
To understand how to use your devices to your advantage, study your environment; is it tropical, deserted, or the middle of the ocean? For the tropical situation, study the local flora and wildlife, after setting up camp and traps to guard said camp. For the desert, start walking after fashioning whatever clothes you have into a sweat hat and search for whatever plants you can find for nutrition (the key is to keep moving) and try to head towards any changes in terrain (head to the hills). For the ocean, it’s as simple as it gets; start swimming. With your devices, use them accordingly; turn off your phone to keep it alive when you need it most, don’t smoke and waste the lighter fluid, always have your knife out in case of a sneak attack, and use the rope to store all of you stuff up high in a tree (if there are any) so only you can get it (just don’t lose your supply’s location). The knowing of one’s environment is key. Where’s there fresh water? Is that animal dangerous? Did that animal, that bit you as you tried to pet it, give you some disease? All are important things to know.
The biggest key to your survival in your own personal hell, would have to be having basic survival skills. If you’ve never hunted, studied nature (and can recognize what is good or deadly), camped, went fishing, or even joined some scout group (even for a year or month) then your probability of survival is slim to none (if you survive you might get a film deal off the novel you write with your remaining limbs). If you do have these survival skills, then your odds of survival increase depending on your level of knowledge. That or maybe you just happen to be Liam Neeson in The Grey (2012) or him in any of his other films where you somehow survive ‘everything’ (literally, except The Grey). Good luck [Taken (2008, Example #1)].