Posts tagged: wilderness survival

How To Survive Chemical Warfare – Part I

Australian infantry small box respirators Ypres 1917

Although chemical weapons have actually been used since ancient times (for example the Chinese used Arsenic Smokes in around 1000 BC), the era of chemical warfare arguably began with WWI – almost exactly 100 years ago.

It is important to note that the rules of war are ultimately written by the perpetrators: Despite the fact that the Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907 forbade the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare, more than 124,000 tons of poison gas were produced by the end of World War I. The French were the first to use chemical weapons during the First World War, using the tear gases ethyl bromoacetate and chloroacetone. This was followed rapidly by the development and use of chlorine and other gases by all sides and WWI even became known as “The Chemists’ War” as a result. [1]

A total 50,965 tons of pulmonary, lachrymatory, and vesicant agents were deployed by both sides in WWI, including chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. Official figures declare about 1.3 million casualties directly caused by chemical warfare agents during the course of the war. Of these, an estimated 100,000-260,000 casualties were civilians. [1]

The effects of chemical agents can be persistent: They’re still clearly visible in Vietnam, 40 years after the USA sprayed the deadly Agent Orange that had such hideous effects on millions of people.

Are things really different now? It’s questionable that we are any more civilized. There are more stringent legal measures in place and great steps have been made to prevent the use of chemical agents. But since when did you ever come across a terrorist who played by the rules?

I think the risks of this happening to you are pretty small overall. So it’s best not to freak out. But also, don’t think that this is just a thing of the past. Sarin was used in an attack in the Ghouta region of the Rif Dimashq Governorate of Syria during the Syrian civil war in 2013. Varying sources gave a death toll of 322 to 1,729. [1]

It makes sense simply to learn a little about it and be prepared.

genetic defects

The first thing you need to know is how to detect a chemical attack, so you can prevent contamination or decontaminate in time.

Wilderness Survival says “the best method for detecting chemical agents is the use of a chemical agent detector. If you have one, use it. However, in a survival situation, you will most likely have to rely solely on the use of all of your physical senses. You must be alert and able to detect any clues indicating the use of chemical warfare. General indicators of the presence of chemical agents are tears, difficulty breathing, choking, itching, coughing, and dizziness.”

Also, they advise us to use our sense of smell to detect chemical agents. Chlorine is obvious – it smells like bleach. Phosgene smells like freshly cut hay or grass. Mustard gas has an odor resembling mustard plants, garlic, or horseradish. However note that Sarin is odorless.

Some agents are similar to mist or have specific colors like yellow, green or even red.

Mustard gas leaves oily patches on cars and buildings and Yellow Rain is noticeable in the form of small yellow drops on the ground, on cars or trees.

young victims
photo source :

Beware of rashes, irritations, and burns on the skin. If you feel like scratching parts of your skin repeatedly and the feeling does not get away, or if you see an unusual color or spots on it, wash with soap and water immediately. If the symptoms are severe, get to the nearest hospital right away.

However, some agents are very hard to detect. In this case, your smell won’t help you in any way. But you can observe your surroundings, to see if there’s something unusual going on.

We’re also still at risk of chemical agents washing ashore from 20th-century dumping, a shocking practice. This really happened. For one example – after WWI, most of the unused German chemical warfare agents were dumped into the Baltic Sea, a common disposal method among all the participants in several bodies of water. Over time, the salt water causes the shell casings to corrode, and mustard gas occasionally leaks from these containers and washes onto shore as a wax-like solid resembling ambergris. [1], Nuke Prep Expertise & Solutions, make a list of the things we should watch out for:

• Dead animals/birds/fish: Numerous animals dead in the same area.

• Blisters/rashes: Many individuals experiencing unexplained rashes, bee-sting like blisters, and/or watery blisters.

• Mass casualties: Many persons exhibiting unexplained serious health problems ranging from disorientation and nausea to breathing difficulty, convulsions, and death.

• Unusual metal debris: Unexplained munitions like material, especially if the liquid is contained. (No rain recently.)

• Unexplained chemical odors: Smells may range from fruity to flowery to pungent/sharp, to horseradish/garlic-like to peach kernels/bitter almonds to new-mown hay. It should be noted, that the smell would likely be completely out of sync with its surroundings. (I.E. The smell of hay in an urban area.)

• Low-lying clouds: Low-lying fog/cloud-like condition not explained by surroundings.

• Definite pattern of casualties: Casualties distributed in a pattern that may be associated with possible agent dissemination methods.

• Illness associated with a confined geographic area: Lower rates of illness for people working outdoors versus indoors or indoors versus outdoors.

• Lack of insect life: Normal insect activity is missing. Check ground/shoreline/water surface for dead insects. Also look for dead animals/birds/fish.

• Unusual liquid droplets: Many surfaces exhibit oily droplets or film. (No rain recently.)

• Unusual spraying: Unexplained spraying of an aerosol or liquid by vehicles, persons, or aircraft.

Keeping Your Head When Lost In the Wilderness

Keeping Your Head When Lost In The Wilderness

All too often I hear people talk about how crazy I am because I like to go into the wilderness with what a lot of people consider minimal gear. “How can you survive out there like that?” they ask in amazement.

I’m quick to point out there’s a difference between just surviving, which is likely to going to be a miserable experience, but leaves you breathing and functioning on the other end; and camping with minimal gear, which means I’m still comfortable but use what’s available in the forest instead of hiking everything in on my back.

First and foremost knowledge is worth more than gear in most situations. If you are forced into a survival situation in the fall for a few nights with no gear at all could you survive? Would you know where to start or would you run through the woods in a panic looking for a way out. If you panic up here in Maine a hunter is liable to find your skeleton in the woods ten years later.

The first thing you need to do is STOP! Sit down, don’t panic, take a few deep breaths, and keep your act together. If you’ve never been lost you’ll tell yourself “Geez, I’d never do that.” Sure, it’s easy to think that when you’re sitting in front of your computer monitor and a kitchen full of food and fresh water just around the corner, but if and when it really happens I can guarantee that you will feel at least a moment of fear.

Ten or fifteen years ago I was snowshoeing in some woods near my house that people never went into that time of year. When I left it was cloudy, but you could at least see where the sun was shining from. A half hour into the hike it started snowing. I kept on, using my best deduction of the direction I was supposed to be going in… and pretty soon was amazed to see the tracks of another person snow shoeing out there. Not only that they were using bear paw snow shoes, just like I was wearing. What were the chances of that?

Zero, as it it turns out. I was looking at my own tracks. When the realization first hit that I was traveling in circles my heart leapt into my throat and my first instinct was to turn and head for the exit as fast as I could. But where was it? The fact that I walked in a circle told me I didn’t have any idea how to get out of that section of woods.

So there I was in a snowstorm, no idea of direction, and it was starting to get dark.

What did I do?

I pulled my pack off – because I’m more likely to be caught naked in the woods than without my pack – and poured a cup of coffee out of my thermos and took a couple of seconds to collect myself. After I was thinking clearly I pulled out my compass and shot my “emergency azimuth” and made my way out to the road.

Other outdoorsman must have a similar idea of doing this. What I do is before I head out I’ll look at a map and find some kind of distinguishing feature, usually a road, and if I know that I’m going to be in the woods to the west of the road I know I’ll have to shoot an easterly azimuth to get out. This is much better than being caught in the woods overnight waiting for rescue crews to come get you. In this case I lived fairly near to where I was hiking, I just hadn’t been in those woods before.

Believe me, even if you don’t panic you will feel a certain amount of apprehension that you’ve lost your direction. Survival is about managing stress, making good decisions, and having enough knowledge about your environment to keep yourself alive.

So what do you do if you become lost?

Check out my next post on Friday!

I actually didn’t do that on purpose. This post was getting too long, so I decided to split it up. So come back Friday and try to not to get lost in the woods before you have a chance to read how to save yourself.

In the meantime, if you’d like to share some ideas I’d be happy to incorporate them into Friday’s article, or if you have a story you’d like to share about survival I’d love to hear it.

Sound off below!

– Jarhead Survivor –