Flash Back Fridays

SURVIVAL COURSE: LIVING OFF THE LAND, NATURE

By John Langton, 1972

Jim teaching survival skill, wearing his favorite sweater, hand made at every stage (by Toby's mother)

The University of British Columbia sponsored a week long course on survival in the wilderness near Strathcona Park Lodge. The 25 participants of both sexes ranged in age from the teens to 50′s. Bob Somerville from the Campbell River Search and Rescue talked about water safety and techniques of dealing with boating mishaps. He described methods of drown-proofing by which a person could remain afloat in the water for long periods with a minimum of effort.  Participants practiced water safety techniques from different types of boats. They learned to right capsized canoes and clear the water from them. Instruction was given on starting an outboard motor after it had been submerged. They swam in their clothes to shore and lit fires on the beach, using matches that they had managed to keep dry. Time was spent on identifying edible plants.

One morning the group went high up on the mountain behind Strathcona Lodge to find and sample various types of plants and berries that grow at different levels. They were all very impressed by a panoramic view of Upper Campbell and Buttle Lake. The descent was very steep so this gave Jim an opportunity to teach the correct techniques for descending safely.
The course climaxed with the participants individually or in pairs spending approximately 30 hours in the woods or in alpine areas. They took no tents, sleeping bags or food so they had to live off the land. Some found frogs or snakes which they roasted over the fire. Each person had little more than a knife, some matches and a few had fish hooks and lines. Poles were to be cut in the bush and bait consisted of anything that could be found. Colored paper, insects, and bits of wool were some of the things that were used. One man caught a cutthroat trout using a huckleberry for bait. Stones were used for weights and bits of wood were fashioned into floats.
Paul Presidente, conservation and outdoor recreation program coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife branch of the provincial government, accompanied many of the outdoor trips, took part in seminars and showed movies on subjects such as fire lighting, first aid and artificial respiration, water safety, building shelters, making use of things that could be found in the bush such as space under a fallen tree or in natural caves under large rocks. Frames can be made out of trees and branches then covered with ferns or more branches. On the beach it is sometimes possible to find large pieces of bark to cover shelters. Prior to the course, staff had set up a few shelters so that people could see some methods of construction. Paul also described finding one’s way using a compass or a watch as a substitute. At snack time the participants munched on creamed fungus. Some thought that they were eating strips of meat.