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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In The News: TV Show Helps Utah Boy Survive Night Solo In Woods

I've seen Man Versus Wild a time or two, and I found it entertaining enough. Guy with nothing but a knife and the clothes on his back gets dropped off in the middle of the cold, wet Canadian wilderness and has to survive for ... what? A week, I think? And guy gets dropped off in a desert somewhere with some implement and has to eat scorpions and make drinking water with a desert still to keep from croaking (or having to be rescued by the rest of the film crew). Or wait ... maybe that was Survivorman?

At any rate, that's cool stuff to know and great skills to have, for sure. (And I truly don't mean to sound sarcastic here; I'm just in a mood, I guess.) But I'm not sure, based on this Associated Press news story out of Salt Lake City, that I'd credit the show with this mission's happy outcome.

So here's the scoop: A nine year-old boy gets separated from his fifteen family members in Utah's Ashley National Forest, when the rest of the party stopped to adjust a saddle on a horse and the child got ahead and accidentally veered off down a side trail. There were intermittent downpours that day, so the boy was wearing his yellow rain jacket when he disappeared.

When the child realized he was lost, he began tearing his jacket into strips and tying those strips to trees. He also kept moving, following a creek in an attempt find a lake where he figured he'd also find people, but, despite his efforts to "find himself" and be found, he ended up spending 18 hours alone, overnight in the forest, before being located by a mounted SAR unit.

On the plus-side, the child did try to leave clues and thereby make himself visible. He also apparently took shelter under a fallen tree overnight. And, as his father stated, "The thing that he recognized from the show, regardless of the circumstances you're in, you are capable of surviving." A positive attitude is always a good thing.

On the down-side, though, the boy shredded his insulating jacket, leaving him more vulnerable to hypothermia. And he kept moving rather than staying put (aka "hugging a tree"). Definitely not unusual behavior for a lost child, as I've seen firsthand.

In the end, though, what searchers found weren't the yellow strips tied to trees but the granola bar wrapper the boy accidentally dropped a few hundred yards off the main trail and then the backpack the boy accidentally dropped (in his panicked state, he later explained) several hundred yards from the wrapper. The searchers then also located the child's tracks.

So, happily, all was well that ended well, and I certainly don't think that the television show did any harm, to say the least. At the same time, though, perhaps a few basics about what to do when lost might be stressed at the beginning and/or end of the episodes, like staying put for one, especially for the benefit of the children who may be watching.

And if they do that, great! I take it back. :)

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