Survival skills

I have written before about my addiction to the show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” and my childhood obsession with the strange and compelling situations described in Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I’m also a big fan of the show Survivor, partly because it’s fascinating to watch the conniving and strategizing that goes on, partly because the casting is always magnificent, and partly because I always wonder to myself how I would fare for 39 days in a remote region, finding my own food, building shelter and so on.

Could I build a fire with nothing but sticks and rocks? Could I build a shelter that would withstand wind and rain? Would I know how to catch fish without a fishing pole? Should I read up on all these things, in case I ever find myself in a situation that requires these skills? I’m not really outdoorsy, but I like to think I’m resourceful. However, when RB and I recently had a chance to test our survival skills, we found that even seemingly simple things are harder than they might appear.

On a recent trip to Mexico, we found a coconut on the beach. As if on cue, we both immediately decided that we were stranded, this was the only food on the island, and we had to get into it… or starve. All we could use to open it were whatever tools we could find on the beach.

RB had the first go, trying to dig her fingers into the coconut to wedge it open:



Next, she tried pounding it onto a rock embedded in the ground:



No luck, but then we found a sharp, pointy  rock that we knew would work great as a tool. She started pounding on the coconut again:



Pounding and pounding and pounding. We both were starting to get a little nervous, as if our lives truly depended on getting into this damn coconut. She was whacking the hell out of it, over and over, until I got nervous that she might hit her hand. She didn’t, but here’s what happened:



Hmmm. Now we need a plan B.

Although RB  managed not to hit her hand, she did pound so hard with the rock that she cut herself:



At this point, we’re freaking out. Neither of us can believe that we can’t get into the coconut. We can hear the precious coconut juice, elixir of life, sloshing around inside, and we can imagine the sweet, nutty goodness of the flesh. We start making morbid jokes about how the eventual rescuers will find us huddled beside the coconut, unconscious, and then bust it open with a single well-aimed shot. We can’t believe how helpless we are.



I pound on the cursed coconut for another 10 minutes before we finally decide to give up. We slink back to civilization (a few hundred yards away) humbled and hungry. And relieved that instead of stupid coconut juice, we can just have some of this:



Yep, we’re survivors, all right.

8 responses to “Survival skills”

  1. Stella says:

    Have you since researched where you went wrong? There must be a “how to open a coconut” site…right?

  2. LP says:

    Stella, you are a better survivor that we! Neither of us thought to look for a “how to open a coconut” site, but I looked this morning and voila! A plethora of educational videos, here, here and here, on how to open a coconut without tools.

    Apparently, we needed a bigger rock.

  3. LP says:

    There’s also a website called But you need a hammer and nail for their technique.

  4. swells says:

    I guess if you’re stranded on a desert island, you just need to make sure you have your iPhone.

  5. LP says:

    Hmmm. Not sure I want to entrust my life to AT&T. Verizon, maybe.

  6. The coconut says:

    Why is everyone being so mean to me? What did I do to you?

  7. The rock says:

    You saying I was too small? Maybe you just don’t know how to use me correctly.

  8. Uri Geller says:

    Why, just use the sheer force of your powerful mind!