National Geographic : 1953 May
School for Survival flies (minus their wings and legs), ants and ant eggs, wood grubs from rotten logs. Not appetizing, perhaps, but nutritious. And cer tainly abundant. If the Australian aborigine can dine happily off snakes, lily roots, worms, and lizards, the trainee is told, why, so can he. And if an Arab considers fried locusts a treat, then a hungry American flyer shouldn't pass them up. How to Paralyze a Fish One tip that generally tickles the air man's imagination is the notion of using the sap from a sandbox tree to catch fish. He learns that if he mixes this stuff with sand or dirt and spreads it on a pond or stream, it will paralyze the fish so that he can scoop them up by hand. Moreover, they'll be just as edible as if hooked on a line. Most students, of course, don't exactly look forward to a meal of roast sloth, broiled ter mites, and fern-shoot stew, topped off with wild figs and trumpet fruit. But they do find it distinctly reassuring to realize that the jungle holds substitutes for the corner grocery store and the post exchange. Even the Far North, they are surprised to discover, can offer a large and remarkably varied larder to a man not too finicky and not too lazy: bats, lizards, newts, frogs, snakes, wood grubs, rock tripe, and the woolly lousewort (page 592). The over-rich liver of the polar bear, they soon gather, is better left alone; but lemmings can be tackled with some profit. Stead's instructors naturally encounter some resistance among airmen to the idea of lunching off lichens, seaweed, and carrageen moss. But they maintain stoutly that these humble items aren't bad. They also speak well of dandelions, sea cucumbers, and mus sels, though not of blue, or black, mussels, which can be poisonous during the summer in some areas. On the subject of fish the instructors find it easier to convince the airman that he can survive with some pleasure in the Far North. They remind him that he can eat salt-water fish raw; the fresh-water ones (which may contain parasites) he had better cook (page 594). And if he manages to catch some Arc tic inconnu he can consider himself blessed with a gourmet's delicacy. Admittedly, it's not easy for a student airman at Stead to switch his mind from survival on ice and tundra to survival in the desert. Yet he's ready to concede that in tercontinental bombers in a global war may traverse both types of terrain in a single day and that he may have to come down on either. He also recognizes that deserts cover nearly one-fifth of the earth's land surface. It's enough to make any pilot's mouth dry just to listen to the facts about water and desert survival. At temperatures above 90° F., his instructors inform him, dehydration of 15 percent can prove fatal; the body needs from two to three times as much water in the desert as in the jungle-at least three to four quarts a day. If a man can't get it, he'll probably die. But if he does have water, he can make it last longer and carry him farther by "ration ing his sweat"-deflecting the sun with light clothing, traveling by night if at all, living in slow motion. If he stays close to his plane, sets up signal devices (brush and oil beacons, mirrors, flares), and spreads out parachute panels, he can maximize his chances of being picked up (page 591). As long as he has stowed enough food and water on board, he'll be safe. In short, the instructors point out, the time to lick the desert is before you take off. On the afternoon of their third day at Stead student crews turn from the theory of survival in varied climes and tackle thorny reality in the near-by hills. First they draw the supplies they need in addition to their E-1 kits: first-aid boxes, parachute panels, 10 bars of pemmican (dried meat), 3 pounds of fresh beef, and 3 pounds of root vegetables. The food won't be enough to get them through the trek in comfort, but it will tide them over until they learn to live off the land. They Take to the Hills At9p.m.theytakeoffinaconvoyof six-by-sixes. For 50 miles the trucks follow the highway from Reno. Then, at Honey Lake, California, they turn to the left and begin to climb switchback roads that lead steeply through ponderosa pine to an area of razor-backed ridges and narrow upland meadows. Here the airmen will carry out a tactical exercise which for some will prove a lark, for others an ordeal, and for all a test. Simu lating a jump over remote and rugged terrain, they will "bail out" of their trucks by crews, head into the tall timber, and for the next 10 days work their way cautiously across the training area to pickup points on the eastern side. They carry maps and radios. For more precise coordinates and new directions they must contact the base by radio each night. South of Crocker Mountain the convoy cuts west to the Grizzly Valley road. Stakes in dicating bail-out stations appear every four tenths of a mile. As each crew nears its marker, its truck slows down for a moment, and in pitch darkness the men tumble out and make themselves scarce.