Adventurer Bear Grylls tackles situations that would force most people into an immediate panic, like having to cross piranha-infested rivers or fighting off a grizzly bear. The Discovery Channel star demonstrates all types of survival techniques on his popular show "Man vs. Wild," which has its season premiere on Friday.
Now the man who became one of youngest climbers ever to reach Mount Everest's summit teaches readers some of his grizzly techniques in his new book "From Man Vs. Wild: Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth."
Whether it's snacking on maggots; learning how to build a shelter for yourself in the snow or figuring out how to use your own urine to cool yourself down, Grylls takes on nature's extremes and tells you how to survive them. The book allows readers to be armchair adventurers — even if they can't muster up the courage to actually take on such rugged terrain.
Read an excerpt of Grylls' book below.
Did you know that the arctic ground squirrel is the only known mammal capable of lowering its body temperature to below freezing? Or that a ladybug's bright colors are a potent warning, and that when disturbed it secretes oily foul-smelling yellow blood from its legs to deter predators?
Nowadays people refer to the natural world as "wilderness," as if nature is somehow wild and unkempt, out of control and confused. But it is not. In fact the more I learn about the natural world, the more I realize that nature is the one part of life that actually has order; when you take time to look under the surface of the plant or animal kingdom or at bugs, you see a silent world, forever moving, growing, changing, all together and in unison.
The irony is that our man-made world is the real "wilderness"; only in nature is there any sense of genuine harmony. Wherever you look in man's domain there is disunity and a lack of purpose: on the big scale as nation is pitted against nation, race against creed; and on the small, as companies pollute rivers and individuals dump rubbish on roadsides. This is the real "wilderness" and disharmony in our lives. Wilderness is what we have made and abused all around us. In nature, however, there is none of this; there is no greed, no waste, no envy. And it is in this nature that the real miracles of life occur.
The snowdrops survive because the snow insulates them against the frost. Naked man would die in such snow in a matter of minutes. I have seen puffins flapping awkwardly among icebergs and gale-force-nine Arctic waves during a torrential storm, but apparently loving every minute of it. We were over 500 miles from land. My team and I were in a little rigid inflatable boat with all the latest equipment and technology and dry suits, but it was we who were about to die of cold and terror, not them. The natural world is, in every way, bigger, better, cleverer, and stronger than us.
It is only when I return to these so-called "wilds" of nature that I find my own spirit comes alive. I begin to feel that rhythm within me, my senses become attuned to what is all around; I start to see in the dark, to distinguish the smells of the forest, to discern the east wind from the westerly. I am simply becoming a man again; becoming how nature made us. These "wildernesses" help me lose all those synthetic robes that society has draped over us, all that pent-up aggression we see on the streets or that numbness of people without hope or a dream.
Nowadays so many people walk with their eyes down, fixed on the pavement. To them, survival is about surviving the day, the boss, the interview. These are all important things, but we lose out on so much if we limit our lives to that pavement in front of us. If only we could make some time to look up—maybe in our lunch break on a bench in the park. Why is it that when we do these things we feel better, our imagination fires up, our ambitions and dreams awaken? Nature made us like that. We are meant for more than pavement-staring. We have one life and there is one extraordinary world created for us to enjoy.
Despite man's best efforts to destroy it, the natural world is still the most advanced and remarkable combination of eco-phenomena ever known. Our finest technology cannot come close to the simple workings of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, a marvel I bet you have rarely even thought about since you were a kid. The more I see of our world from all my expeditions, the more I am amazed. People often say the world is so small. Yet, time and time again, I am surprised at just how huge and diverse and powerful it is. And you know what I think is one of nature's greatest indulgences? The lone, hidden flower in the middle of a jungle, which no man or eye will ever see. The bloom is so clean and crisp and beautiful; it is as if such concealed wonders are God's indulgence. Made just for His pleasure.
The world is overflowing with such delicacies, and in return we have two responsibilities: one is to understand and protect them, the other is to enjoy them. It's worth saying once more: we do only have one life. There is a world of magic to be discovered, and the more I learn the more I realize there is still so much to know. I hope this book could not only save your life one day, but might also encourage you to explore, and begin to understand and enjoy the indulgences nature has provided for us. Nature isn't something to be feared, but relished. As humans we have been given dominance over every animal and plant. I have seen a tiny wizened desert nomad control eleven of the world's most lethal snakes simultaneously as they crawled around his toes. What knowledge.
Over the centuries our ancestors invented many remarkable "tricks of the trade" to keep us alive, fed, and watered in some of the harshest habitats. We mustn't let those skills die. Wouldn't you be proud if you were stranded on a desert island with your friends but no supplies, yet you knew how to collect water from a sapling, make fire without matches, and catch and skin a snake? Of course, because it is tapping into a part of you that has taken millennia to evolve. Your survival instinct.
Is our life better for all the wonders of modern existence? Maybe life is easier or faster, but is it better? Why, then, is depression so rife? Have we become so divorced from the real us inside?
I don't know. All I do know is that nature brings out the real me; when I need space or time, when I am grieving or in pain, where do I run to? I run to the mountains. I find quiet and solace there. It feels like home. I have time to shout and cry and breathe. That is natural.
Use the tools in this book to help you out of any trouble you might get yourself into on this road of high adventure. But, above all, use your God-given natural spirit. It might need some dusting off, having not been visited for a while, but it will always be there for you, and life is richer when we spend some time in its company.
So don't be scared to come alive … oh, and don't give the pavement more attention than it deserves.
PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT'S FIRST…
The Priorities of Survival
I love summaries! If you're short of time or have a very small memory, this is the page to remember. Many people make the mistake in life-or-death situations of getting their priorities wrong, so the logical place to start this book, before we get to the heart of survival, is to grasp these simple life-saving priorities.
1) PROTECTION: Priority number one in a survival situation is the protection of yourself—whether from extreme conditions (sub-zero temperatures and wet clothing, for example, will kill you in a few hours, as will extreme heat with no shade), dangerous animals, or an airplane about to explode. You must protect yourself first—there is no point getting water but becoming hypothermic in the process!
2) RESCUE: The next priority is to set yourself up to be rescued—lay out objects, stones, or whatever material is at hand, in a large SOS near your shelter. Rescue services will start their search as soon as they know you are in trouble, so don't miss those early opportunities to be saved; be prepared. As long as it is safe to do so, you should wait where you are. Stay put. If you are in a vehicle, don't stray from it. Stay nearby. I know too many stories of people breaking down in the Australian outback in extreme heat, wandering off to look for help only to be found days later, a few miles from their car, dead from dehydration. Be smart; make yourself safe, make yourself visible, and then wait to be rescued. (It's not good being in a snow hole that no one can spot!)
If the rescue services are not going to come, or days have passed with no sign of searches, then you need to think about planning self-rescue: getting yourself out of there on your own two feet. This should be a last resort, but ultimately rescue must be the main goal of survival and you must do whatever it takes to save yourself. Leave a signal, either on the ground with stones or anything you can find, to indicate the direction you are taking and when you left, then prepare yourself and go for it.
3) WATER: Once you are protected from the elements, and prepared for rescue, you must stay alive long enough for rescue to come! Water now becomes your top priority. Think in 3s: you can live three hours without decent protection from extreme heat or cold; three days without water; but you can survive for three weeks without food. Get your priorities straight. You must find water.
4) FOOD: Energy is needed even more so if your plan involves self-rescue. But remember, you can survive much longer without food than without water, and your body has plenty of reserves of both muscle and fat to work through. If water is in short supply, restrict your eating, especially of too much protein, which requires more water to digest. Learn to scavenge as early man did. Find berries, maggots, or grubs before you chase the big game! This is how you really stay alive.
So that's it: PRWF…Protection, Rescue, Water, Food…or Please Remember What's First!
From "Man Vs. Wild: Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth" by Bear Grylls. Copyright (c) 2008. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.