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The Sad Would-Be Survivalist, and Why You Should Know His Story

The Sad Would-Be Survivalist, and Why You Should Know His Story

Scotland isn’t exactly the most barren, God-forsaken place on the planet. Frankly, it has some larger towns (Edinburgh has a population of almost a half-million and 1.3 million people in that area), but, like in many areas in the U.S., there are some more remote and rural areas. And the weather in Scotland isn’t always the most pleasant.

Occasionally, someone take a few survival courses and thinks that they can make off-grid for an extended period of time. This was the case with a 29 year old gentleman named David Austin who set out to survive for a year off grid carrying with him only a journal and a knife. He was found about three weeks after his 29th birthday. He had died of hypothermia a few weeks before he was found.

A sad, sad story.

But, like many sad stories, there are things you can learn from it. Cody Assmann gives seven points that you can learn from Austin’s story, along with our comments:

  1. Survival isn’t easy. If survival were easy, everyone would do it. And, the fact of the matter is that, to do it you have to go against the grain, which many people cannot (or are unwilling to) do after so many years of conditioning. Taking a few courses, like Austin did, may give you the information that you need to survive, but you should always seek to learn more and test out your knowledge before you need it.
  2. Bring a lifeline. Austin went out with only a journal and a knife. Don’t hamstring yourself. Better safe than sorry even when testing out your skills.
  3. Take baby steps. Learn, test small, learn from your mistakes, test again. If it was a successful test, test slightly bigger. Don’t bet the farm on a giant, untested show of bravado.
  4. Expect surprises. If there is one truth in life, it is that something unexpected will happen. Again, have a lifeline, have the extra equipment that you don’t think that you need. Better safe than sorry.
  5. Prioritize. Assman puts it this way: “Most of the chatter about survival seems to focus on food. Yet food is perhaps your lowest priority in most situations. […] The case of David Austin can remind similarly minded people about the very real dangers of weather. Finding a way to stay warm/cool, dry and protected should likely be your top priorities.
  6. Study geography. It appears that Austin didn’t realize how cold that part of Scotland can get in December, and he paid for that ignorance with his life. If you have the chance to study up on the area where you will be, it can give you a better idea how to prepare and survive when you are there.
  7. Level with yourself. Bravado and ego can get you killed. Get a realistic viewpoint about how ready you are in general and how ready you are for the geographic area when you will be, and then work to get better.

David Austin’s story is tragic, and even more so because it could have been prevented if he had used some common sense. For your own safety and for the safety of your family, take the seven points above into consideration as you prep and train.



View Comments (6)
  • stupidity kills.
    Everything is harder and takes longer than planed for. Count on it. — Wise old man.

  • Even though three of my four grandparents were F1 generation Oregon Trail Wagon Trains and I have read journals to embark on such an activity is something I would be very hesitant. Two summers fighting Forest Fires on a National Forest Suppression crew taught me that stuff happens.

    One particularly memorable 1967 night was spent on the Burns High Plateau. When we arrived at a crowning fire, the temperature was about 106. As we fought through the night and made progress, we realized that coming dressed in normal hot weather conditions lacked foreknowledge. As the temperature dropped, we began to stoke small area fires and remain close to them for warmth. When dawn arrived, we were greeted to an estimated 1/2″-1″ of snow on the ground and freezing water pumps. A hasty restarting and application of burning or glowing branches at key spots prevented permanent damage to pumps pursuant to solid freezing. It was we, the entire crew working together that salvaged the equipment and controlled the fire.

    Reading in the family journals, the families all survived on the land working together. Decisions were made for long term survival. One side decided to stay where they found water, evaluated their condition of stock and determined they could go no farther. With 3 oxen and one horse left, they began to plow using two oxen per day allowing the third to rest, while the horse & cart took the two week trek to Ft. The Dalles & back to purchase supplies for the winter and seed for the first crop. The weakest ox was slaughtered to feed them through the winter. Family great grandchildren still farm that Homestead.

    Even tith this history, I don’t want to be placed into a survival situation without being as prepared as the LORD Jesus Christ allows and provides.

  • Baby steps is right. David Austin failed the test, showing he wasn’t fit to survive.
    Boy Scouting, and camping, is a good way to start. Beginners lessons on orienteering, fire making, cooking, first aid, hiking. Merit badges with slightly more in depth learning on all of the above. Multiple opportunities for day hikes, overnights, weekends, and weeklong camping trips to practice those skills.
    Follow that up with more information from the library, internet, seminars on edible plants, colonial era handicrafts, hunting, fishing, trapping, construction.
    Practice! Do those overnights, weekends, weeklong camping trips several times a quarter, in all seasons. Make those tools you’ll need at home under controlled conditions. If you can’t do it, you’re not ready yet.
    There’s no shame in admitting you’re not ready for a survival adventure.

  • Not bright? Thank GOD for the brave souls who made that trip, and Thank GOD for people with the strength to go out and fight Forrest fires while the lazy a$$e$ sit back in their comfy chairs and watch the newz on CNN while people offer their all to stop those fires before the lazy ones get burned up in their beds!

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