We call in a survival expert to show us the ultimate skills needed to be a survivor.
Television survival programs have created a surge in people wanting to put themselves to the test of using their wits in difficult situations. Sean McBride, who owns Touch the Wild in Queensland, runs wilderness survival courses from Friday night to Sunday evening. Courses have a minimum of five and maximum of 10 people, and the minimum age is 16 years.
Sean is a founding member of the International Survival Association and has been teaching bush-craft skills for over 17 years. He has survived the Arctic, the desert and remote parts of the United States.
Sean believes the five critical elements to survival are attitude, shelter, water, fire and food. Attitude is up to the individual, of course, but Sean's courses take care of the other four. You will learn about water collection and purification, lighting a fire and creating shelter. With the knowledge you'll gain, you should be able to survive from overnight to up to a week in the bush.
Participants make their way to the Baden-Powell scout campground in Samford, about half an hour north of Brisbane, by 7pm on Friday. You need to take a sleeping bag, hat, notebook, basic toiletries and old clothing.
Once everyone is acquainted, Sean gives a brief introduction to survival. The first activity is to put up a "hootchie" a green army tarpaulin used for shelter.
Everyone then creates a pile of debris comprising dead leaves and grass to sleep on. The debris stops important body heat being lost into the earth during the night. After a meal of soup or stew, you learn about star navigation. If there is a moon, it can help you determine direction as well. The group then settles into their pile of debris, probably thinking about their bed at home.
After breakfast a more comfortable bed is made by using tree boughs, logs, stringy green saplings and a mesh of ferns. A debris hut or leaf shelter is made for demonstration purposes, but if anyone wants to sleep in it they may.
Lunch is cooked in clay collected from the local dam. It is carried in a palm frond container which everyone has helped make. Water gathering is done by the modern method of hanging a plastic bag from a tree, dew collection or a foliage bag. More primitive ways include gathering tree roots, or building gypsy or Aboriginal wells. These are built in the lowest part of a dry creek bed by digging and puncturing. Any water there eventually seeps in. Purifying water can be done by straining water through a plastic bag, cloth or grass and boiling it with hot rocks.
Preparations for cooking dinner are done by putting rocks and paperbark in the ground, heating them up, adding chicken and vegetables, covering them and leaving everything to cook for about an hour. While dinner is cooking you can learn to make string or a useful bowl by burning wood, plus other useful survival hints.
On Sunday morning, fire lighting is taught. First by traditional methods such as matches, flints, steel wool and batteries, flint and steel and some chemical methods. The old methods of bow drill and hand drill are also taught. You need wood, shoe laces and quite a bit of patience!
During and after lunch Sean talks about wild foods, and the group goes on a walk looking for edible bush tucker. Late in the afternoon you learn to make a sun compass, and even have some lessons in stalking.