Tom Hanks featured in the movie Castaway

Since the time that humans began building and sailing ships, the premise of being stranded on a deserted island has been used in many epic survival stories. 

We laughed at Gilligan’s Island. That was being stranded in luxury!

One story from recent popular culture is the one portrayed in the fictional survival film Castaway. The film premiered in 2000, stealing the hearts of moviegoers.

Both comedic and dramatic, the film features Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee who becomes stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. While the movie itself is relatively lighthearted, there are actually some real-life lessons on preparedness skills you can learn from watching such a film. 

Believe it or not, the survival tactics that were used in the movie are based off of actual proven survival tactics that are essential for staying alive if you for some reason find yourself in any sort of crisis. 

Read on to discover five key survival lessons portrayed in Castaway… 

 

#1: Finding and Purifying Drinkable Water 

Water is key to survival. Without it, we could only survive three days, maybe a week if fortunate. In hotter climates or if heavy exertion is required, the time frame may be even shorter. 

In emergency situations, finding water is one thing, but ensuring it’s drinkable and purified is another. 

Rain is one source of water that you won’t have to worry about purifying much. 

For instance, in Castaway, early on after being stranded, Noland collected rainwater in leaves and coconut shells to use as his supply of drinking water. 

You could easily set up your own rain collection system at home by using rain barrels to collect fresh water. 

Additional sources of clean drinking water include... 

  • Other forms of precipitation, such as snow, sleet, hail, ice, and dew.
  • Water from unpolluted springs, ponds, lakes, and underground sources.
  • Water coming from tapped trees like maple and birch can be safe to drink and abundant in late winter. 

However, a majority of other water sources will contain dirty water that can be detrimental to your health. 

Therefore, knowing how to purify water is just as important as knowing how to source water. The Alexapure Pro Water Filter is a great, inexpensive in-home water filtration system that makes it easy to purify water. It uses gravity, which makes it perfect if there is a long-term power outage. 

If you don’t have a water-purifying device or tablets, an excellent backup option is to boil the water to purify it.  To boil water you’ll need fire, which brings me to my next point…

 

#2: Starting a Fire Without a Lighter or Match 

In addition to water, fire is a key element highlighted in survival situations. 

Whether you use it to cook food, boil water, for warmth, or as a signal fire for rescue efforts, there are a wide range of uses for fire during times of desperation.

If you’ve been a Boy or Girl Scout, one of your survival lessons may have been learning to build a fire. 

If not, not to worry--it’s never too late to learn this age-old technique. 

As long as you have the right materials (such as dry wood) and the right process, making a fire is simple. 

Follow these steps: 

  • Build a tinder nest: This nest will be necessary for creating a flame from a generated spark. You can use anything that catches fire easily, such as dry grass, leaves, and bark.
  • Make your notch: Cut a v-shaped notch into your fireboard and make a small depression next to it.
  • Place bark underneath the notch: This will be used to catch an ember from the friction created between the spindle and fireboard.
  • Start spinning: Place a 2-foot long spindle into the depression on your fireboard. Place pressure on the board and start rolling the spindle between your hands, running them quickly down the spindle. Do this until an ember forms on the fireboard.
  • Start a fire: Once a glowing ember appears, tap the fireboard to drop it onto the piece of bark. Transfer the bark to the tinder nest. Gently blow on it to start your flame.

In Castaway, Noland learns to build a fire naturally using this method. 

In the scene, beads of sweat form on his temples as he furiously twists the spindle on the board. He endures several frustrating attempts until…he sees smoke! 

The look of victory in Noland’s eyes and his cries of “fire!” are an epic and heartwarming moment in the film. 

Of course, having a stash of lighters, matches, or propane tanks stored in a secure, dry location will make the fire-starting process even easier in the event of an emergency. Having a magnesium fire starter handy doesn’t hurt either. 

But having some primal fire-making skills under your belt is never a bad idea.

 

#3: Salvaging Materials and Resources 

Bestselling author David Burkus wrote, “This is a hard truth for some to accept: that a lack of resources may not be their true constraint, just a lack of resourcefulness.” 

In the case of Castaway and most survival situations, this rings especially true. 

For example, in the movie, Noland... 

  • Uses various natural materials to make hunting weapons.
  • Uses an inanimate Wilson volleyball as a form of friendship, social engagement, and emotional support.
  • Cannibalizes videotape to make a rope.
  • In an attempt to leave the island, eventually builds a raft using parts of a portapotty that wash ashore.


If you ever find yourself in a situation with limited resources, it’s important that you get creative when it comes to what you can repurpose to construct shelter, beds, clothes and footwear, and weapons. 

In the end, it will come down to your creativity and critical thinking as to how you can make things work in your particular circumstance.

  

#4: Using Basic Hunting and Fishing Skills 

Early humans relied on hunting and gathering as food-sourcing activities. 

Though we live in the age of supermarkets and grocery stores, it doesn’t hurt to learn the basics of hunting and fishing. 

For example, in Castaway, Noland learns to spearfish through trial and error. 

In fact, in the first scene depicting Noland after several years have passed on the island, we see him successfully spear a fish from several feet away--you can tell he’s more than gotten the hang of it.

Take the time to learn to fish and hunt, and you’ll be able to say the same. Practice, practice, practice.

 

#5: Finding or Building a Shelter 

Having a home base or shelter is important for both practical and emotional reasons. 

Shelters protect us from the natural elements such as rain, snow, and brutally low or high temperatures. 

Learning to find or build your own shelter can come in handy in certain circumstances, whether you’re lost in the woods or on a deserted island. 

In the case of Noland, he finds a cave on the island which he uses as the place where he sleeps at night, stores his possessions, and hangs out with his beloved volleyball friend, Wilson.

Another fascinating fact about the production of Castaway is that the screenwriter, William Broyles Jr., spent several days alone in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez trying to fend for himself. 

Broyles Jr. learned to spear and eat stingrays, crack a coconut open, befriend a washed-up Wilson-brand volleyball, and attempt to make fire--all of which ended up in the film’s story. 

You don’t need to be a screenwriter to make it worth your time learning to survive in nature. 

Take the time to teach yourself and your family these skills, and your mind will be able to rest a bit easier in preparation for worst-case scenarios.

Have a great weekend and, please stay alert! There have been quite a few disasters of late. 

In Liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

MPS Preparedness Advisor

 

Sources:
https://www.outdoorlife.com/photos/gallery/2015/01/survival-skills-10-ways-purify-water#page-2
http://mentalfloss.com/article/72907/13-surprising-facts-about-cast-away
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/9-ways-to-start-a-fire-without-matches/

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6 comments

  • These articles teach me something new EACH day!!!!

    Thanks

    Dan on
  • Delightful writing. I not being a scout. Learned something here. Thank you very much for this story.

    Pamshills on
  • Our basement dehumidifier generates about 2 gallons per day of relatively clean water. If you have power, but no water this works well.

    Marco on
  • This was a great and well thought out article! I really loved it, and as someone who enjoyed ‘Castaway’ it really spoke to me. Nice job, Elizabeth :-)

    Diane L. on
  • Some good points here, but I’d like to point out that snow is NOT a good source of clean water. In some areas, it’s downright dirty. And neither is rain. (Did you ever see the movie The Deerhunter with Robert DeNiro? How clean do you think the rain and snow in their town was? YUCK!) However, given a choice, I’m leaning towards most any source of water, and definitely purified if possible.

    Danny81 on

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