First Things First …

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 20, 2011

As I woke into the twilight zone of my sleep, I heard the sound of a copter fade into the distance.

I sat up slowly, feeling groggy. It was too soon for a rescue, I reasoned, and so I dismissed the rotor sound as part of a dream that played on my fear of being stranded on a desert island.

But then a twinge of dread made me realize that my white flag was nowhere to be seen.

I stood up, stretched, and walked to the shoreline and let the water wash over my feet. As I suspected, my stick flag was floating on the high tide, bobbing on the waves near the shore.

I cast my gaze across the water, the sea, and the horizon for signs of humanity, but saw nothing that promised to return me safe and sound to the comforts of civilized discourse.

Much of the day had passed me by. Judging from the position of the sun relative to the horizon, I estimated that it was late afternoon. Too late for lunch, but I was hungry nonetheless.

I had a choice: eat some trail mix or find some juicy fruit.

I didn’t have time to negotiate with the juicy fruit. I had a rescue mission to assist.

I returned to my case of provisions and retrieved a mixed bag of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. I tossed some into my mouth and chewed them gratefully. My taste buds tingled exquisitely.

While eating, I gave some thought to what I would do to facilitate the search-and-rescue effort.

What could I do?

I reached deep into my memory for a filefolder labeled things to do when you’re on an island that you think is deserted and you want to be rescued sooner rather than later.

I assumed that the rescue effort would happen during daylight hours, within the next few days, and fortunately for me, I had more than several ways to attract a search party.

I had a small portable mirror that I could use to catch the sun’s rays and send an SOS in morse code with a few flicks of the wrist: three glints, three flashes, three glints.

I had more than enough time to gather kindling and dry wood to build three small fires and then use one of my wooden matches, or even the mirror reflecting the sun, to get the flames licking.

The sand on the beach was too fine to inscribe an SOS, but I might be able to delineate an SOS with raw materials from the island, such as big sticks or large stones.

I clearly had some exploring to do.

For my first trip, I decided to follow the shore along the island, staying out in the open, as close to the shoreline as possible, alert to sources of kindling, dry wood, big sticks, and large stones.

And anything else that helped to make my rescue a sure thing.

I shook the sand from my sun-dried shorts and t-shirt.

I took nothing for granted. For all I knew, there were people living on this island. Owners. Scientists. Tourists. Castaways. A band of ruffians spoiling for a confrontation.

I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, slipped into a pair of sandals, and pocketed the mirror.

I retrieved a large, neatly-folded canvas bag from the case, placed the strap of my 8 x 40 marine binoculars around my neck, and secured a foot-long parang inside its sheath around my waist.

Lifting the strap of my canvas bag over my shoulder, I walked on sand that shifted under my feet. I would have preferred going barefoot, but I was wary of scorpions.

My top priorities were clear: be ready with the mirror as I periodically scanned sky and sea with binoculars, and be on the lookout for things with which to make a fire and send an SOS.

One more thing: be alert to predators. I touched the hilt of my parang.

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