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Four Years at the Mount

It's a classic campfire question: If you were stranded on an island, what would you bring? There are the funny answers, the clever answers, and the astonishing answers - but they are all very telling. That's why this month we had our writers talk about what they would bring if they were stranded on an island!

Stranded on an island...

August 2016

Paradise Found

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

Before I give you my answer, I have to partially answer the prompt with a pivotal question: What kind of island am I stranded on?

I would like to think myself as resilient and innovative as Tarzan, but I know that if I was stranded on a fierce jungle island with only a pocket knife and some flint, I would quickly prove Darwinís theory that nature rebukes the unfit. Indeed, if I were stranded on hellhole island, my three wishes would be simple: a paper bag to control my hyperventilated breathing, an exorbitant amount of bug spray, and of course, a one way flight to anywhere else.

But I hate to think of myself shuddering from a cannibalís distant coo and dodging the emerald stares of panthers. So, if I have to be stranded on a fictitious island, I may as well reside as its tiki king. My response below records my reasoning for picking the three quintessential items necessary for a solo trip on an oasis island.

Iím pretty much alone. There are a few clouds shaped like hula dancers, but they slowly dance away. I see a parrot orbiting the treeline, but soon enough, he too glides off. There is a cruise ship, floating far off in the distance, and I hope it never catches me. Indeed, I am on an island paradise reserved just for me.

As I explore my new home, I come across a bluff hidden in the treeline. A steady stream runs down it and crashes into a warm spring. I figure "up" is the best direction, so I scale the skyscraping rocks. About midway up the bluff, I misstep and tumble into the spring below. The warm water fizzles through my hair and slides across my skin. It feels like liquid gold. After floating and splashing for while, I feel refreshed and decide to give the bluff another try.

After about an hour of climbing, I reach the apex of the island and my eyes meet the most spectacular view imaginable. To my left, I spot a pod of dolphins bounding beside the shoreline, and to my right, I see miles of palm trees, draping across mountains and valleys alike.

But rock climbing made me tired, so I make my first wish for a hammock. There it is! A silk-woven hammock drooping between two palm trees. I curl up in the manmade cocoon and rock back and forth. Thereís a gentle breeze. The leaves flutter across one another, in seeming efforts to chime in with the rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves down below. The symphonic blend sounds like the tune of a Bob Marley song, and with its gentle whisper, I rock to sleep.

I wake up, but my dream is far from over. As I suspend between the two palm trees, I reach down and pluck a strand of Dendrobium flowers. I string the flowers into a lei and place it over my neck. I remain there, gaping at my surroundings for what must be several hours.

After some time, the sun shifts, shedding light into my once shaded area. The sun and I rarely get along. I am of Irish descent, which means I have the complexion of a ghost in the winter and that of a tomato in the summer. But today, on this island, the sun knows Iím his only client, so I do not need to waste my second wish on SPF 100 sunscreen. Instead, the sunís rays tint me into the perfect shade of golden-brown.

I do, however, want to curb the sunís inevitable glare. As I make my way back towards the shore, I make a wish for a pair of sunglasses. I figure if I am going to be looking at my reflection in the water, however, the sunglasses may as well look good. So I wish for signature aviators with black lenses and golden rims.

When I reach the shore, I dig my feet into the wet sand and crinkle it between my toes. CRASH! The wave meets the shore and splashes up to my knees. Unlike the hot spring, the water here is brisk and crystal clear.

A rainbow of colors scatter in the coral reef beyond me. It reminds of a painterís pallette, but its image is an absolute masterpiece. Fish of every kind dash to and fro, and once again, I am completely mesmerized.

I see one notably juicy fish, and my stomach begins to grumble. I realize itís been nearly an entire day and I have not had a bite to eat. I make my third and final wish for a fishing rod.

As I stand knee deep in the water, I imagine I must be the luckiest man alive. Thereís a tug on my rod, and I have caught another fish -- this time, a particularly sizable one. I cast it into my hammock, a makeshift fishing net, and sling it over my shoulder. I suspect there must be a volcano near the hot spring, so I retrace my steps with the bundle of fish flapping on my back.

Before long, I find a volcano that bubbles and occasionally oozes over its crust. One by one, I pierce each fish with a stick and watch them crisp through the lavaís steam. I imagine I look like a boy roasting a marshmallow over a campfire.

I set up my hammock again, devour each bite of the fish, and lick each of my figures to get the last of their savory promise. The sun begins to set just as beautifully as it rose hours earlier. I place my aviators and lei on my bare chest and let the fishing rod slip between my fingers. My eyes slowly shut, and I take a deep breath. I hope to be lost forever.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.


Three Wishes

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

In being stranded on a hypothetical desert island, one has the rare opportunity one seldom gets when one is actually stranded on a desert island. This opportunity is being able to choose three items to bring with myself during my unexpected island vacation. In all honesty, I have always found this question to be a rather silly one with an obvious answer that I will elucidate in due course, but first, let me get some ideas out of the way.

There are many ways you can approach this scenario. The first way is the practical survivalist way, in which case I would need those elements necessary for survival: shelter, water, food. I could bring an ultra-violet light protected, solar powered, weatherproof tent. I made this choice, for obvious reasons.

The second, probably most important problem to be fixed is your body's need for water; in fact, it takes approximately three days until your body begins to shut down; any longer, you risk dying of dehydration. Now, being on an island in the middle of the ocean, I would be surrounded by water, but none of it is drinkable. Well, technically, you could drink it, but consuming high amounts of salt in hopes of slaking your thirst is pointless. After minutes of exhaustive research, I discovered a way to desalinate the water. There are two ways to accomplish this: The first way requires a fire, a kettle, a receptacle, and a bit of piping. I foresee two major problems with this:

One: I only have two more spots to fill on my list if I stick with the rules, and as you can see the list of items to achieve my goal exceeds that of the guidelines.

Two: it is reliant upon my ability to make fire and I would most likely die of dehydration before I even see a wisp of smoke.

So, Plan B involves solar power and a lidded pot. You fill the lidded pot with salt water, then place an empty cup in the middle (I could find or make an empty container by using whatís around me, maybe) and finally, you place the lid on top and upside down so that the handle rest in the empty container. If I could, I would show you a diagram, but I am currently limited in doing so. The blank spot on my list has to be filled with something useful like an unbreakable, collapsible fishing rod with built in LED light. Again, the reason my third and final choice is an unbreakable, collapsible fishing rod is obvious, and the LED light is to signal whatever ships maybe passing.

Yet another way to approach this scenario is the funny, "letís-pass-the-time-with-unlikely-scenarios" kind of way. In this approach, you choose anything from, books, to people, to a deck of cards. I would most likely choose books, so long as a series counts as "one" book. The first book I would choose would be Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, followed by, Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling and lastly my copy of World Folk Tales whose authorís name has faded from the well-worn cover. However if my goal was to occupy myself until I am saved or die of exposure, dehydration, or starvation then I would probably exchange that last book with a deck of cards or a game that takes forever to finish, like Monopoly. As far as people are concerned, I would fear to choose someone I love, because even though I really and truly love them with all my heart, over exposure to them for an extended period of time in a life or death situation would strain my care for them to the breaking point. I am sure you can agree that no matter how much you love a person, the thought of being forced to see them every second of everyday on a hot, desert island would give you a bit of a headache. Besides, one person stranded is enough, there is no need to add to the hungry mouths to feed.

There is one other way to respond to the question, "If you could bring three things with you on a desert island, what would you bring?" This way, in my humble opinion, is by far the smartest and the one I would most likely choose if whether by miracle or magic genie, I was able to bring these items along. One, an unsinkable yacht with unlimited fuel to take me far away from the desert island; two, a capable crew, savvy to the ways of the sea because heaven knows I would be useless in such matters; three, a small well-stocked library somewhere on the yacht in which I can pass the time until I return back to civilization.

I think you can agree with the answers I have given you to this age old question, though I am sure you have a better plan thought out in your head of how you would handle such a situation. However, my best advice is to avoid desert islands in the future unless you like the idea of roughing it and having no one around but your best friend, Wilson.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


The Choice

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

This question has always plagued my mind whenever Iíve been asked: What one item would you bring with you if you were stranded on an island? There is almost too much to consider in this question. For instance: do I have any information about how long Iíll be there, is there a rescue effort out to find me or am I actually there forever? Will there be water, wildlife, a safe place to sleep?

None of these questions would be answered before arriving to said island, so how does a person choose? How does one prioritize clean water, the ability to hunt or make a fire, warmthÖ the list goes on. Clearly, my mind goes straight to survival, but there is more! What if I happen to get stranded on an island that used to house a family, and I donít have to worry about survival? Now what do I bring Ė a book to keep my mind working or a "beach book" that will make me laugh, maybe? Oh! I should bring a rosary, or, maybe a journal. I wouldnít want to show up to this kind of island with a knife, then again, showing up to a deserted island with a Lisa Scottoline book would be absurd. Every time I consider the possibilities, I gain a new appreciation for the fact that I will most likely never, ever, actually have to face this choice.

The Discovery show ĎNaked and Afraidí has taken this question that has plagued the minds of middle schoolers and classroom writing prompts for so long, and has put it to the test. The show is a little more advanced now, with the extended stay option and multiple items if placed in the dangerous parts of Africa; however, in the beginning, this show took two people and took everything from them, including the clothes they were wearing. The contestants were allowed to bring one item with them and were placed in a pre-determined part of the world for 21 days. The weather, wildlife, water, and obstacles were different for each pair, and each person was still only allowed one item. Admittedly, I have a slightly unhealthy obsession to the show. Maybe it has something to do with the way this question has always plagued my mind; I donít know, I should look into that. Either way, Iíve watched as contestants try to survive while essentially stranded. Some bring water filters, knives, fire starters, fishing wire, variations of a machete, and more. The most popular, as far as I can tell, has been a knife. The knife seems to also be the most useful because even if they canít start a fire, build a trap, or filter water, they have been able to clear areas, defend themselves, and most importantly, hunt for food.

So, I think, not because of my own creativity but because of my Naked and Afraid addiction and the tried practiced of the contestants, that I will bring a knife with me to my island. There may be some issues here because I have never hunted a day in my life and have an awful fear of killing animals, even bugs, so it would certainly be a true test of my will to survive and would probably be quite humorous. They could create a show just for my time on the island and it would probably draw way too many viewers. Iíve tried to come up with an answer more creative than a knife based on my recent time spent in the woods at CLC, but I just couldnít. Here is what I came up with:

  1. A very large bar of soap Ė I truly hated not being able to shower and having to wear the same clothes for days on end.
  2. A phone Ė lack of contact forced me to develop an actual interest in the lives of the bugs living around me, this canít be healthy.
  3. A watch Ė my parents used to call me Big Ben because of my constant need to know what time it is, this hasnít gone away with age.
  4. Deodorant Ė if I canít bring soap, this is the next best thing.
  5. Bug spray Ė If there was a jumbo sized can of bug spray, I would choose it over the knife every time.
  6. Poison repellent Ė Iím not sure such a thing exists, but after my bout with Poison Sumac and Ivy for weeks, this would be my number one choice.

Fortunately, while in the woods, we had food and water readily available. We walked about 1,000 meters each day to re-supply three MREs per person and five, five-gallon, water jugs. It didnít seem very convenient at the time, but compared to a stranded island it was, in retrospect, very kind of whoever decided to fill our re-supply cache every day.

After reviewing my list, I still have to choose the knife to go to my island with. The list above are unnecessary comforts in comparison to food, so I will, unfortunately, forgo bathing and bug spray for a hunting knife. That is my final decision. Now, I should learn to hunt.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


Survival vs. Comfort

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

I am a very indecisive person. Picking three items to bring anywhere would be incredibly tricky for me. However, I think that I have it figured out. There are two instances that I have come up with: one in which survival is key, and another in which water food and shelter are a given. If survival were my goal, I would bring a fire starter, a fishing pole, and a machete. If shelter and the like were provided, I would be a little more frivolous: the three items I would bring would be a bathing suit, my iPod, and a warm blanket.

My family watches a TON of survival shows. Bear Grylls was first, then Naked and Afraid, then Naked and Afraid Extreme, then Alone. The whole point of these shows is to show that people can survive in the wild with literally one survival tool, and without clothes even. I would like to think that if I were forced into a survival situation, I would do okay. However, I know myself pretty well and I know that I am a huge wimp. All I can do is hope that if my life depended on it, I would be alright.

The second would be a fishing pole. Islands mean water, and water means fish. Fish are food. I would probably have the most luck catching fish rather than trying to hunt in these imaginary woods, so I think the fishing pole would be more helpful than a gun or other kind of hunting equipment. I love little animals and I would have a hard time killing them to eat. So, pescatarianism it is.

I would bring a machete. I have seen enough survival shows to know that you need a sharp edge to survive. Cutting up firewood, creating shelter, and gutting my fish for dinner all require a blade. The TV show, Alone features many survivalists choosing the machete as their weapon, and since I know nothing about knives, I would trust them. Sure, I have never used a machete in my life, but as I said before, I can only hope that if my life depended on it, I would figure it out.

Finally, I would bring a blanket. It probably seems silly to you that I would waste one of my survival items bringing something so unnecessary, but I think a blanket would be a great item. I could use it to keep me warm when it gets cold, I could use it as a roof to my shelter when it gets hot, I could wave it as a flag to catch someoneís attention. I could make a trap with it to catch food. Or, I could make it into a bag to hold berries or leaves to eat.

My first luxury item would be a fire starter. Fire would keep me warm, cook my food, purify my water, and help me signal to airplanes and boats that I was there. My ultimate goal while stranded would be to get help as soon as possible. A signal fire seems like a great place to start. Sure, I should be able to start a fire without one, but this is a luxuryóany item that would make my life easier, I am bringing it.

I would also bring a bathing suit. I donít mean a bikini, either. I love swimming. I started at nine and swam for a team until I was 22. Even now, I still swim and coach kids in swimming. It is a huge part of who I am. It has always been an amazing stress reliever for me, and 13 years of swimming competitively does not make it easy to stop the sport on a dime. If I were surrounded by water, I think it would make me crazy not being able to swim in it. While stranded on an island, swimming would help keep me sane.

The next thing I would bring is my iPod (ok, my iPhone, but exclusively for music. I donít think Pokemon Go would work on an island). Similar to swimming, I have always had music as a way to escape stress in my life. I have playlists for different moods and activities like driving or cleaning my room. I love being able to lose myself in the moment (pun intended), to forget about whatever it is I have going on and sing along loud and off key. Stranded on an island, my favorite songs would get me through the toughest days.

Personally, I like to believe I am a survivor. I would like to believe that if I were stranded, I would be able to keep myself alive. Fortunately, I donít think I will ever have to find out. If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring? Would you choose comfort materials or survival needs? This exercise says a lot about peopleís personalities. What do you think it says about you?

Read other articles by Katie Powell

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