Monday, August 16, 2010


As Dunncle Sam noted in one of his insightful comments about using smaller animals as bait to attract larger animals which you can cut open and crawl inside to survive a storm in the wild, "whales are the 'white whale' of any COACISSWer." Their massive chest cavity, protective layer of blubber, and structural stability make them nature's greatest gift to the stranded survivalist. I suspect that even after the storm abates and the singing of birds can be heard in the trees, one would be tempted to wile away a few more hours inside the noble beast. However, like most truly great things, whales are elusive.

Hunting one down with merely the knife and floaties I bring on every expedition is a daunting task indeed. Whales are nearly impossible to catch in their own habitat. Though we are both mammals, their swimming ability is far more advanced than ours. Many times I've spotted a whale and leapt into the ocean only to lose it in the ensuing chase.

Thus, the primary way a whale is useful to a survivalist is if it's already beached. Whales generally perish in prolonged battles with giant squid (see below for a helpful illustration tattooed on some dude's arm) and sometimes wash up on land in the turbulent hours preceding a storm. But Poseidon is fickle. I urge you not to spend your final minutes 'neath the darkening sky waiting for him to deliver you a whale. Pursue a land beast, but keep an eye to the sea. Hope is the survivalist's most powerful tool.

Tattoo by Luca Natalini

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The main thing to beware of, when cutting open penguins and crawling inside to survive a storm in the wild, is whimsy. Penguins are very whimsical creatures. They wear suits. They toddle around, waggling their heads back and forth. They like to slide down hills. It's easy to get carried away and lose focus--focus necessary for survival. Instead of dragging your penguin fort to a protected area like you should as the storm approaches, you start thinking how funny it is that penguins wear suits and you're wearing a suit of penguins. Then you make a comical gesture or two with a flipper, pretending you're at a cocktail party with George Plimpton and you just said something tremendously witty. Next thing you know you're ignoring the storm altogether, sliding down a hill and BAM--struck by lightning. Game over.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Selecting a Blade

The second most important tool to bring into the wild (after a steely will) is a quality blade. Loyal readers will have noted a disparity between the sizes of blades used to cut open an animal before crawling inside to survive a storm in the wild. Simon, from The Last Crossing, drove his "sixteen-inch blade into the horse's chest" and used it to saw "the belly down to the legs." Essentially he unsheathed his pirate sword and went to work, hacking and sawing. Bear, on the other hand, used a slightly overgrown pocketknife, valuing precision over brute force as he separated the camel's innards from the camel.

Whenever I embark on an expedition I'm faced with my own conflicting desires for a blade small enough to hurl end-over-end at trees and large enough to wave through the air with a satisfying swish swish. But, as the good people at Survival Topics note, "Choosing the right survival knife is more than an exercise in individuality--your very life may hinge upon its proper selection."

In general, I suggest a full tang, drop point blade approximately six-inches long that has been tested to cut through airplanes and oil drums (knife manufacturers presumably test on these items because of the large number of consumers who slice their way into and out of airplanes and oil drums each year.) The Becker BK10 is a good example. Fallkniven also makes an excellent model. But, ultimately, the choice is yours. Your knife should make you happy and confident, whether you're wandering the aisles of your local grocery store, secure in the knowledge that you could slice that can of chili clean in half, or if you're stranded in the wild, a storm brewing, surveying the carcass of a moose for an entry point.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Giant Catfish

As an American, I've long underestimated freshwater fish. While delicious, the trout and salmon that populate our rivers are small and floppy.

So it was with awe that I viewed the above picture. The giant catfish is truly a behemoth of the stream. Growing up to ten feet long and weighing almost a ton, they are ideal to cut open and crawl inside to survive a storm in the wild. I'm already planning an ill-prepared trip to the Mekong during monsoon season.

However, no sooner do I learn of this great fish's existence, than I learn that it's endangered. The Chinese government plans to dam up the Mekong to feed their insatiable lust for 24 hour discotheques and laser gloves. The giant catfish is to0 large to go over the dam (though I wonder if perhaps it could just smash through) and would not be able to spawn.

We at COACISSW need to stand together to protect this fish (and what I have to assume is a truly spectacular spawning process). As I noted in the giant whale-eating whale post, too many of the best animals to cut open and crawl inside to survive a storm in the wild are already extinct.

Not one more! I say.

I've been angry with the Chinese government for the past few years because of how scared they made me of the Olympics, but this really crosses the line.

But there's hope. They won't be able to dam the river if the river is full of Americans. Bring your boats, jet boats, jet skis, submarines, hover boats, knee boards, fishing gear, spear guns, air rifles, Bud Light Lime, beads, American flag bikinis, and classic rock mixes. Let's turn the Mekong into the Havasu of the east. No need to pack any food, there will be plenty of catfish to go around.

And if a storm comes up, just cast your line into the water and wait for sweet slippery salvation.