How to Survive the Swamp

How to survive the swamp, imaginary or real is a deadly serious subject, one that very well could turn out to be a life or death situation. Recently Washington DC has been politically referred to as a swamp, a derogatory implication of the type of business, people and politicians that infest the nation’s capital. That’s another subject all together that could be debated for days if not months, but why would the capital be referred to as a swamp? Let’s explore the most likely reasons.

A swamp is one of the most inhospitable places on earth to survive. Why? Mainly because of the complexity of problems one encounters which threaten your health, safety or actual life. Swampland consists of rugged and dangerous terrain, hordes of midges, an atmosphere of extremely high humidity which makes finding wood dry enough to burn highly problematic. There is no drinkable water in the swamp, therefore the inability to start a fire on which to boil water creates a severe dehydration issue. There are an abundance of deadly and dangerous creatures which pose an immediate threat to your life 24 hours a day.

The swamp is a master of disguise and without proper equipment your chances of getting out of a swamp unhurt is minuscule. For instance, you may think you are walking on solid ground when in fact you are standing on an island of unstable floating grasses, decaying leaves and tree branches which are constantly shifting. This is prime swamp territory where inhabitants stealthily crawl through the mat of vegetation in order to ambush one another… or an unsuspecting human. However, it is what it is, and for whatever unfortunate reason you are now stranded in the swamp, let’s explore ways you can survive the environment and escape in one piece.

Study the Environment:

It’s important to take stock of your immediate area. Where do you think you are? A few miles from the nearest fishing supplies and convenience store, or hours into uncharted swamp channels. What’s the ground like? Solid high ground or marsh. Is it a good place to set up a camp or must you move to a better location? Take a deep breath and slowly and logically analyze your findings. The worse thing to do is to run off half cocked into a swamp filled with dangers.

Secure or Make a Weapon:

Surviving in the swamp calls for some alterations of normal survival guidelines. Because there are so many dangerous animals in the swamp the procurement of a weapon for self defense is of the utmost importance. Hopefully you have a knife for shaping a spear and chopping small limbs for a shelter. If not, you are in deep trouble, find some sort of solid object to use as a club.

If you are forced to move, which more than likely you will be, you’ll be wading through soggy terrain most likely covered, at least partially with vegetation, which hides creatures that may pose a danger to you. You must have a solid stick, at least 4 feet long, but wield-able, nothing too large or bulky to control quickly, that you can use to extend your reach and ward off animals before they get too close. If you see a gator, bubbles percolating out of the water is a sure sign, try to reach dry land, climb a tree or slowly travel away from the gator while maintaining visual contact. In a worse case scenario of how to survive the swamp, use the stick to slap the water or make noise by whatever other means. A startled alligator, like you step on him, will feel threatened and is more likely to attack.

Building a Shelter & Starting a Fire:

These two essential requirements require a little multi-tasking, extremely fast multi-tasking if night is quickly approaching as gators hunt at night. If there is no solid ground available, climb a tree and secure yourself for the night. You won’t get any sleep due to the insects, strange noises and uncomfortable living quarters, but you’ll survive to begin the fight again at day break.

Decide where you are going to build a shelter. Gather wood for making the shelter, above ground sleeping, and wood for a fire at the same time. Discovering anything dry, such as fibrous lint or moss, has no benefit for shelter construction, but is worth its weight in gold for building a fire. Finish your shelter, the sides and elevated floor, then start a fire, then return and finish the roof of the shelter.

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Boil Water for Drinking:

Dehydration is a killer and the extremely humid swamp conditions will quickly sap your body’s water and energy. Therefore, creating safe (potable) drinking water is critical and the only way to insure that is to boil the water at extremely high temperatures and length of time. The swamp water won’t look clean, but even in your thirst blurred vision it appears to be clean, remember the water is totally infested with billions of pathogens that will kill more than likely you if consume them. If you don’t die immediately, you’ll be so sick you will wish you would die. Never drink swamp water that has not been thoroughly boiled.

Protecting Yourself from Insects:

Unfortunately there is no method for totally keeping insects from tormenting you, but there are a few things to do to try and help. Building a fire will help ward off most insects but not totally because you can only stay so close to the fire before the flames and smoke force you away, the exact results the insects experience. However, any reduction in flying pests is a plus. Another method is to rub mud on your exposed skin, creating a barrier between mosquito and you.

However, how to survive the swamp can be tricky if you’re not always alert to consequences of actions. Smearing mud on your exposed skin may help retard insect bites, but if you have open wounds and smear the bacteria laced mud into those wounds, you are welcoming infection which could result in death or the losing of a limb. Careful what you do in the swamp.

Watch Where You Are Stepping:

Always look where you are stepping. I know that’s not always possible, like when wading through water, but look whenever you can. Swamps are home to a mass of extremely dangerous animals, numerous species of poisonous snakes, leeches, clouds of midges, alligators and its not impossible to run across a very aggressive beaver defending its territory. Remember, you are the invader into their environment. I doubt you’d take too kindly to a rattlesnake slithering through your front door. Additionally, there are holes, roots and other obstacles which could result in a fall or trip and an ankle injury. Things are bad enough without adding injury to the list.

Swamp Food Menu:

Eventually you will become hungry and if not particularly excited about the menu, you must eat in order to replace calories that are used for energy. Too low on calories and you lose muscle strength, coordination and logical brain processing methods.

Frogs are in ample supply in the swamp and are quite delicious roasted over an open flame, tasting similar to chicken. If more desperate, snakes of all varieties can be killed, skinned and eaten. Turtles are another food source, where cutting the legs off and roasting them is the easiest method of acquiring nourishment. Unless you are a skilled survivalist do not risk eating mushrooms or other vegetation as they can be very poisonous and just aren’t worth the risks.

Avoid Drowning:

Be quite aware that you can drown in a swamp, marsh or bog as easily as any other body of water, even if its shallow. The swamp has its own unique water dangers that are nothing like trans-versing a river, pond or a deep swimming pool. A swamp is composed of soft nature bio-silt beneath water formations which can essentially make a 4 foot depth of water 9 foot deep if you become entangled and sink in it. Additionally, a bog may seem secure to walk on but hide very deep water underneath the peat layer, which if you fall through can result in drowning.

The best way to avoid being captured by a bog is to use a long stick to prod the ground ahead of you in order to insure its sound enough to step on. But… bad things happen and you need to know what to do if you do stumble into a bog or marsh. If you can’t avoid it … learn how to escape it.

Treat sinking into a swamp, bog or marsh in the same manner you would as if stepping into quicksand. Do not panic! Do not struggle or flail about as this only makes the situation worse by causing you to sink deeper and much more quickly than being still.

  1. Eliminate excessive weight. Toss your backpack to the side, do anything to make yourself lighter, thus making it easier to extract yourself.

  2. Backpedal. Before you sink too deeply, take a few quick steps backward to where the ground was solid. Do not use large lunging steps, because a straddled position will make it harder to maneuver.

  3. Keep your head above water! Keep your arms and head above the surface at all times.

  4. Float your way out. If you sink and find yourself waist deep, lean back onto your back in a floating position. Much like sitting, this will evenly distribute your weight and allows your feet to float to the surface. Once your feet break through the surface, slowly inch your way back to shore.

  5. Use all available resources. Assess your surroundings, utilize any reachable tree limbs. Only grab them after you have achieved a safe position, such as floating on your back.

  6. Free your legs! Inch by inch move your legs, one at a time, upward towards the surface. After every inch of movement allow a moment for the quicksand to fill the space it once occupied. Depending on how deep you have sunk, this process could take hours. Patience is imperative! Big movements further liquefy the quicksand and reverses any progress you’ve made.

  7. Breathe Deeply. This will help keep you calm and increase buoyancy.

How to Survive the Swamp is obviously a complicated issue due to the many dangerous variables the swamp hides. Hopefully you have learned some valuable information from this article, from actions to take in order to survive the swamp … and why the term SWAMP perfectly describes Washington DC.

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