How To Survive In The Desert

September 6, 2007

Nubian DesertThis is a Weblog (made by Stephen Yuen) which will tell you about the key things you should know if you need to survive in the desert. You will learn a lot and I hope that you shall remember something from this Weblog after viewing it. 

Background Information  

 A desert is a body of land, usually in very hot or cold temperatures. Deserts are made of sand, gravel, rock or ice. They have little or no vegetation and no permanent bodies of water. Seldom does it rain in deserts so that means the amount of precipitation in deserts are minimal. However, flash-floods (violent floods that occur irregularly without any signs before it happens), tend to give the plants (such as cacti) their requisite dose of rainfall.

The largest and coldest desert that is known in the world is Antarctica and the largest and hottest desert known in the world, is the Sahara desert.

Animals, which live in the desert, are extremely amazing in different ways. For example, kangaroos, which live in the desert, lick themselves to keep cool and termites live in tall mounds of clay to protect themselves from harsh winds and dangerous desert sandstorms.

Other animals that live in deserts are: Snakes, Spadefoot toads, Honey ants, Spinifex Hopping Mice, Budgerigars, camels, bilbies and countless others. Most ways animals tend to escape the heat, is by coming out into the open at night instead of the day. However, if the sun comes out, they must run quickly back into their cave, burrow or their home. Also, if you’re wondering how they obtain food and water, most animals that live in the desert are herbivores. That means, that they only eat plants and vegetables. They also get their water from the moisture in the plants they eat. Some animals, such as the camels, can store food, water and fat in their humps for later use. Scorpions obtain their moisture from the prey they eat. The scarab beetle has absolutely no problems at all because they obtain their food and water by eating other animal’s dung!

Not only do animals try to survive in the desert, plants do as well! Plants such as the Spinifex plants and the Mulga plants adapt to the desert to ensure their survival. Plants that usually survive in the desert for an extremely long period of time are called perennials and plants that usually have an extremely short life-cycle, are called ephemerals. Once the ephemeral plants die, they tend to leave seeds on the ground. Once the occasional flash-flood arrives, they grow into another ephemeral plant. Desert PlantsOther ways plants obtain their water are from the roots. This is possible because the roots stretch so deep, that they can reach water from underground. However, other plants that have short roots are extremely succulent and can absorb lots of water during the flash-floods. Many perennials have small leaves, often waxy, to reduce loss of moisture through transpiration. Also, some plants have no leaves at all. Instead, they have thorns and/or spikes. As you can see from the information, plants are very different compared to the plants and trees we see in the city and local parks. This is because they have adapted and changed to guarantee continued existence in the desert. So far, I have only talked about the general wildlife and plant life in the desert, in the next few sections, I am going to talk about: People who have been thrown into the desert and have survived, items you should take to the desert if you ever want to go there and I am also going to add a section about survival skills.


Real Desert Survival Stories – Ernest Giles – The Explorer Who Never Gave Up


Overall, Ernest Giles made five expeditions in his entire life. His first expedition was in 1872 where he attempted to cross the country. They began and travelled around the Northern Territory and most of the rock formations they past were named by Giles. Unfortunately, on his first attempt, he failed to cross the country because his horses were growing weaker and there was no one else to carry the supplies. His second expedition began on 4th August 1873 where he was accompanied by two men and William Henry Tietkins who later joined the team. Once again, Giles and his team attempted to cross the country. Their journey began at the Alberga River which is now part of a town called Oodnadatta. After a month of wondering, they managed to travel to the Musgrave Ranges and in there, they found a large and sparkling river and named it, the Ferdinand River on the 3rd of October 1873. As they travelled on, they realized that they were travelling through harsh and dry conditions. In every direction, they only found barren land with the scorching sun sailing above their heads. Everyday, they were struggling to obtain enough water and they were also having trouble giving enough food to the horses thus reducing their energy everyday. As they trekked through the thick air, they prayed for water to touch their mouths as much as they wanted rain to flood the land. They were growing weaker and travelling slower everyday.

On the 20th of December 1873, they arrived at what we call Mount Scott. However, they didn’t stay there for a long time and continued trekking through the hot desert. On 23rd April 1874, Giles and one of his companions, Alfred Gibson, scouted ahead. This was when all of the horses died except for Giles’. Yours Faithfully, Ernest GilesGiles, being an intelligent fellow, thought that there was an extremely high chance that the remaining horse would die as well like the other ones and instructed Gibson to hop on the remaining horse and follow their tracks back to the base camp to pick up supplies. Giles said he would follow them on foot behind them. After eight days of walking back to the base camp, Giles realized that his companion never made it back. This was heart-breaking news to Giles and ordered an immediate rescue team to look for him. After several days of searching, not a sign was found that suggested that Gibson was still alive. Giles had been keeping his hopes up for days now and finally accepted that Gibson wouldn’t be coming back. After the exhausting search, Giles admitted to his team that there weren’t enough supplies to continue the expedition. On the 21st of May 1874, the return journey for home finally began. However, before the team left, Giles thought that it would be appropriate to name the desert he crossed, the “Gibson Desert” after his fallen companion. His other companions thought that it was a fitting name. Now, most people would have thought that Giles had achieved nothing. However, another group of people believe that he achieved a great deal. These are only a sample of his achievements during his life that Ernest Giles accomplished. The things Giles achieved on his second expedition were naming Mount Scott, the Ferdinand River, the Musgrave Range and the extremely well-known, Gibson Desert.

After years of exploration, Giles died on the 13th of November 1897 due to a nasty case of pneumonia. It was said that at that time, Giles was virtually forgotten in the world. He was buried in the Coolgardie Cemetery and he died unmarried. Hopefully, the people in the world, has not forgotten Ernest Giles like they did years before.


Items To Take With You To The Desert


All of the items you should take into the desert must be essential and necessary. Not only should they be necessary, they should be items that would ensure your survival. In this section, you will read about what you should bring and WHY you should bring those particular items.

On your right, you can see a sensible person that is about to enter the desert.Appropriate Desert Clothing Here is a list of what he is wearing or carrying and the item’s function or use:


1. Hat – As you can see, this hat has a flap that covers your neck. Although you may think that it looks rather old-fashioned, it protects you from sand when it is being blown from some of the extremely harsh winds. Also, the sun in the desert is extremely hot and will give you something more than a tan!


2. Sunglasses – Like the hat, it protects you from the powerful sun-rays and is extremely useful if you want to protect your eyes from the UV (ultraviolet) rays which can really damage your eyes.


3. Backpack – You should always bring a backpack when exploring any part of the world. However, if you’re entering the desert, your backpack should be carrying extra sunscreen and spare warm clothing because the nights in the deserts are extremely chilly!


4. Compass – This is extremely useful if you’re lost in the desert. For example, if you know that your base camp is 100m north and then another 100m to the east, with a compass, you should have no trouble finding your way back to your shelter.


5. Water Bottle – Water is very scarce in the desert. By carrying a water bottle that is filled with water, it could change how long you would have to live.


6. Watch – Sometimes it is hard to find out what the time is in the desert. Always carry a watch so you can keep up with the time.


7. Map – Like a compass and a water bottle, this could determine how long you would have left to live. With a map, you can locate where your car or vehicle is or where your base camp or shelter is. Without a map, you could be stranded in the desert for life.


8. Wear loose cotton clothing – While exploring the desert, you should always wear loose, cotton clothing (unless it is raining) because not only does it cover and protect your skin, it also allows cool air to enter through the clothing.  By wearing this type of clothing, it would almost be like wearing a portable air-conditioner.


9. Shoes or boots – Choosing the correct type of shoes or boots can change a rough, uncomfortable trek, to a nice, easy walk. You can wear any type of shoes except that they should be strong and tough. Shoes that are like that are very for the desert if you don’t want sore feet after the end of each day.


Survival Skills


In this section, some things you will learn is how to obtain water in an emergency, you will also learn the “Ground – to – air visual code” and another thing you will learn is how to find north by using the sun. First of all, you will learn how to obtain water in an emergency because water is the most important thing in the desert. It has been proven that you can survive many days without food, but less than 3 days without water. Obtaining water in the desert requires you to have the following: A tree that is not dead, a plastic bag, a rock and some string. This method of getting water is called the “Transpiration” method and is the most effective way of collecting water in an emergency. First, you must place the large, clear plastic bag over the leafy end of the tree branch – the more leaves, the more water you will get. You then have to tie the bag tightly to the branch with the string making sure you have sealed all the open ends of the bag. Weigh down one corner of the bag by tying it to a heavy rock. Water will gather in this part of the bag. Once enough water has been collected, untie the bag and scoop out some of the water to drink. The bag can then be retied to more water.

The next thing you should learn is the Ground – to – air visual code. The Ground - to - air visual codeThese should only be used if you are really in distress and/or lost. When creating these signals, they have to be large so that flying aircraft above you can see them. However, before you even begin setting up your signal, you should calm down. Why? Well because, as I said before, you would only use these signals if you were lost. So, what you should do is sit down and try to lose the sense that you are going to die and that you accept the fact that you are lost. After that, you then start setting up the signal.

When creating the signal, it is best to use large planks of wood, colourful or bright towels or anything else that is large and that would stand out. If a plane does fly over the area and sees your distress signal, it will rock from side to side which means that it has seen your signal and will take all the

necessary action. The Ground – to – air visual code is as follows:

I – Serious Injuries

II – Require Medical Supplies

F – Require Food and Water

K – Indicate Direction to Proceed

è – Am Proceeding In This Direction

LL – All Well

N – No

Y – Yes

_| |_ – Not Understood

If you don’t quite understand what these signals mean or if you are not sure what they look like, please look at the given diagram above. 

The final thing that you should learn is how to locate north by using the sun. First, you must find a fairly straight stick and stick it vertically into the ground. This method of finding north will work the best if the sun is about to reach its highest point in the sky. Once the stick is fixed into the ground, the stick should cast a shadow. As the sun begins to move to its highest point, the shadow should move around the stick and begin to get shorter. You should mark the new end of the shadow every three to five minutes. Once you notice that the shadow begins to grow longer, this is a sign that the sun has reached and passed its highest point. Now for the final step: Draw a line from the highest point to the stick and as far as you want to go. As you may have guessed, this is north.


What I Have Learnt


One of the things I  would like to say is that by doing this project, not only do you actually get to learn a lot about deserts, but you also enjoy every minute as you customize and create your web-page, weblog or any other online presentation. Most of the things I learnt during this project were the important things you need to know in order to survive in the desert if you were ever dumped there by surprise. To give you a taste, I learnt the Ground – to – air visual code, I learnt how to obtain water in an emergency and I also learnt what the things I should bring to the desert if I could prepare before hand. Moreover, this project has not only given me a chance to discuss deserts, it has given me a chance to create my own weblog. So as you can see, this project has been a project that has taught me a lot in different areas.



Humanities Alive 1 – By Maggy Saldais, Peter Van Noorden and Jo Lamont


One Response to “How To Survive In The Desert”

  1. Mr G said

    This is a wonderful project that demonstrates your creativity, incredible attention to detail and your ease with new technologies and your desire to challenge yourself. This is clear in both the content – excellent and detailed research – and the form – a engaging medium with excellent design. You have also covered all the points asked of you producing a project that is a model for other students. It seems that you enjoyed this project, which is probably the most important thing at this point. Naturally, you have an earned an OUTSTANDING. Well done. Great work! Keep it up.

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