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How to Get Rescued from a Deserted Island

Whether your plane made a crash landing or your ship got lost on a three-hour tour, now you're stranded on a remote island. Here's how to get help.


  • Step 1: If you're lucky enough to have a cell phone with reception and battery power, call for help and let them know roughly where you were before washing up. Authorities may be able to work with your wireless provider to narrow down your location and send a rescue team.
  • Step 2: Think survival. First, find a source of freshwater. Search inland for a stream or pond, or collect rainwater using large leaves. You can also tie rags around your ankles and walk through grass or weeds before sunrise. The rags will absorb dew, which can be wrung out for drinking water.
  • Step 3: While there's still daylight, set up a shelter. Choose a spot with some shade but one that'll still allow you to spot potential rescue planes or ships.
  • Step 4: Make a fire the old-fashioned way and use it to signal for help. If possible, build three fires in a straight line with about 100 feet between the fires. It's an internationally recognized distress signal.
  • TIP: During daylight, create smoke by covering your fire with wet leaves and branches. Add rubber to create black smoke, which will stand out against sandy surroundings.
  • Step 5: Get the attention of rescuers by arranging rocks, leaves, or clothes into geometric patterns like triangles, circles, and Xs. Make your display contrast with the ground and as large as possible, so passing aircraft can see it. If you've got enough materials, spell out "S-O-S" -- the international distress signal -- in an uninhabited area.
  • Step 6: Use a mirror or a piece of shiny metal to signal faraway rescuers. Get to the highest terrain possible and aim the object to reflect the sun onto passing ships or airplanes. With any luck, you'll be rescued before you've even had a chance to send a message in a bottle.
  • FACT: The castaways on Gilligan's Island were finally rescued in the 1978 TV movie, "Rescue From Gilligan's Island," only to find themselves stranded on the same island again at the end of the film.

You Will Need

  • A freshwater source
  • Some dry sticks
  • Rocks and leaves
  • Clothing
  • A mirror or a reflective object
  • Cell phone (optional)
  • Rags (optional)
  • Rubber (optional)

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