Water supply for the victims of disaster at sea, whether it is possible to drink salt water, how long a person can do without fresh water.

The human body is almost 70% composed of liquid media. Most of them (up to 50%) are inside the cells, and the rest is extracellular fluid. Most of the fluid is found in the cells of the gray matter of the brain, kidneys, and heart muscle. Therefore, the water supply for victims of distress at sea is in first place. After all, you can’t drink salt water. 

Water supply for victims of distress at sea, is it possible to drink salt water, how long can a person do without fresh water.

Water is involved in diverse and continuous metabolic processes. The loss of water by the body by only a few percent leads to the disruption of its life, and depletion of more than 10% causes serious disorders in the functional activity of organs and systems, causing human death.

means was and remains the lack of fresh water. Indeed, a person can still somehow fight hunger. Even without special gear, there is always the hope of catching a few fish or finding floating algae. However, food only increases thirst.

Is water supply possible due to the use of salt water by the victims?

Since time immemorial, there has been an opinion among sailors that salt water causes insanity and accelerates death. It is so firmly entrenched in the minds of people that many of them died in the vast expanses of water, not even trying to quench their thirst with ocean moisture.

One of the first to refute the entrenched postulate that drinking sea water is the surest path to suicide was the Soviet naval physician P. Eresko. He argued that seawater was quite potable. The doctor proceeded from the fact that a person consumes 8-10 g of salt per day. Therefore, if a person in distress at sea drinks about 1 liter of salt water per day, he has a chance to stay alive.

The case that happened with US Air Force Lieutenant D. Smith testifies in favor of drinking sea water. In July 1943, he was shot down by the Japanese over the Pacific Ocean and ended up on a single rubber raft in the Guadalcanal area. The sailor lasted 20 days without fresh water and was picked up by the American military transport in satisfactory condition. For 5 days, he drank one pint (0.473 liters) of sea water daily. In order not to feel her unpleasant taste, Smith smeared the mucous membrane of the mouth with the fat of the bird he had killed..

A voluntary experiment conducted by the French physician A. Bombard on himself, also testifies in favor of drinking sea water. In his book Naufrage volontaire (Voluntary Shipwreck), published in Paris in 1953, he argues that drinking salt water in small quantities (500-600 ml in 10 doses) can be useful for 5-6 days shipwrecked.

Finally, one of the last experiments on starvation and drinking sea water under natural conditions was conducted in 1982 by a teacher at the Physical Education Department of the Leningrad Higher Engineering School named after Admiral Makarov V. Sidorenko. During the cruising competition for the Baltic Cup, he went hungry for 21 days, consuming up to half a liter of sea water per day.

Undoubtedly, the moral factor is a powerful force, but there are also objective laws of physiology. The British Medical Research Council examined the results of 448 shipwrecks in the British Navy from 1940 to 1944 and found that drinking sea water in many cases caused death. Of the 143 sailors who were left without fresh water, 57 people died, that is, approximately 33%. Of the 684 people with a daily diet of fresh water, 120 g died 165, that is 24%. Of 1314 sailors with a daily ration of up to 2230 g, 96 people died – 7%. An increase in the daily norm to 340 g reduced mortality to 1%.

Experts concluded that salt water should not be drunk. On boats where sailors used it, mortality reached 38.8%, while on life-saving appliances where sea water was not drunk, it amounted to only 3.3%.

The action of salt water on the human body.

Where is the truth? After the recommendations of A. Bombard and J. Ori appeared in the open press, the conviction spread among seafarers that the dangers of drinking sea water were greatly exaggerated. In this regard, in 1959, the IMCO Committee for the Safety of Navigation requested the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide a competent opinion on this matter..

Prominent ocean survivors, biologists and physiologists R. A. Mackens and F. B. Baskerville from the UK, Swiss J. Fabre, Frenchman S. Laborie and American A. V. Wolf, finally sentenced to Geneva: sea ​​water has a destructive effect on the human body. It causes deep disorders of many organs and systems..

In fact, the human body usually contains about 1% mineral salts. Their concentration in the body is regulated by the functioning of the kidneys, and since ocean water has salts of about 3-4%, instead of washing out harmful, waste substances from the body, sea water also clogs it with its salts. In order to remove the latter, the kidneys use the “water depot” of the body, dehydrating it.

Such a process is very dangerous, and the brain reacts hardest to it. People who could not stand the thirst and began to drink salty sea water have a mental disorder, hallucinations, delirium. In the end, an excessive load on the kidneys can completely disable them, which will lead to death.

You can or cannot quench your thirst and drink salty sea water?

However, how then to explain the cases of P. Eresko, D. Smith, A. Bombar, and V. Sidorenko? Do they disprove the menacing conclusions of WHO experts? Turns out no! It is known that in different parts of the World Ocean, the salinity of the water is not the same. The Atlantic Ocean contains approximately 3.5–3.58 ppm of salts. In the Pacific Ocean – slightly less – 3.46-3.51 ppm. More “fresh” water in the Black Sea is 0.7–0.85 ppm, and in the Baltic – only 0.2–0.5 ppm. From here it’s clear even to the uninitiated – the water of the Black and Baltic Seas can be drunk (of course, only in extreme situations) without much harm.

In addition, US medical specialists re-analyzed the incident with D. Smith and found that the pilot was not alive thanks to sea water. It turned out that he drank a lot of fresh water before the sortie, and the fluid content in his body was above normal. Moreover, on the 5th day after he began to drink salty sea water, heavy rain fell over the ocean, and D. Smith drank plenty of fresh water. The doctors who examined the pilot concluded that if the heavenly moisture had not fallen, further use of sea water would have ended in a tragic outcome for the lieutenant.

A. Bombar, as follows from his book “Overboard of his own free will,” during swimming, he also drank not only salty sea water. Each morning, he wiped the surface of his rubber boat with a sponge and thus obtained fresh condensate. Besides him, he quenched his thirst with the blood of dolphins, birds and juice squeezed from fish. Starting from the 23rd day of the trip, it rained daily on his “Heretic”.

Thus, it was convincingly shown that the experience of D. Smith, A. Bombar, W. Ullis and others, with all its merits, does not prove the possibility of long-term survival at sea by drinking sea water, but only indicates the possibility of collecting enough rainwater to drink . Salt seawater with a high salt content cannot be drunk even in exceptional cases. Here it is appropriate to quote H. Lindemann:

“Since humanity has existed, everyone knows that it is impossible to drink salty sea water. But in Europe, there was a message about a study that claims the opposite, provided that the body is not yet dehydrated. In the newspaper forest, it flourished in lush color and received a warm response from amateurs. Of course, salt water can be drunk, and poison can be taken in appropriate doses. But recommending shipwrecked salt water to drink is at least a crime. ”.

Water ration in conditions of autonomous navigation on collective life-saving appliances.

In conditions of autonomous navigation, the water ration can be considered a determining factor in the survival of people using collective life-saving appliances. The longest voyage without drinking water lasted 15 days. But this is a kind of record, usually people die much earlier. Therefore, rational rationing of water soldering is of paramount importance for victims.

With a single use of 1 liter of water, a significant part (from 16 to 58%) is excreted through the kidneys. Meanwhile, if you drink the same amount of it in portions of 85 g each, then the total loss through the kidneys will be only 5 to 11%. From this it is obvious that with limited water supplies it is necessary to divide the daily rate into four to eight portions. Drinking water in these cases is recommended in small sips..

However, no matter how economically fresh water is consumed, there will come a moment when its supplies run out. Drinking salt water on life rafts and boats, as already noted, is strictly prohibited. The question is how to quench your thirst.?

Instructions and instructions for those in distress at sea recommend collecting dew at night and replenishing fresh water with celestial moisture, claiming that rains in the tropics are not uncommon. But is this possible in practice? We turn to reliable facts, no one in doubt.

A. Bombar was able to start collecting rainwater only on the 23rd day of his voyage. The American traveler W. Ullis took advantage of heavenly moisture only on the 76th day. During the 2.5 months of the stay of French travelers E. De Bishop and A. Brain in the Pacific Ocean, no decent rain fell on the Tahiti Nui raft. This evidence makes clear that rain and dew are sources that cannot be relied upon with certainty..

What should be the way out? When swimming in low latitudes, WHO experts recommend:

1. Do not drink water in the first day after the accident.
2. Drink no more than 500 ml of water per day. This amount is enough for 5-6 days of swimming and will not cause harmful effects on the body..
3. Reduce the daily rate to 100 ml if the water supplies are coming to an end.
4. Never, under any circumstances, drink salt water.

In recent years, treatment of various diseases with urine (urine) has spread among the general population. The authors of the method convince of its absolute safety. Is it so, time will tell. However, we consider it our duty to warn: in conditions of autonomous navigation, quenching thirst with urine is a direct way to suicide! In this case, it can be useful only for external use as a means of burning out jellyfish and other moderately toxic marine inhabitants..

In order to preserve the internal reserves of fluid in the body, the following measures can be recommended: make fabric protection from sunlight at hand, moisten clothes with seawater, and, if possible, minimize physical work in hot weather.

Some liferafts include a solar distiller. In the tropics, the daily output of such a device reaches 1 liter. According to the instructions, from the first hours of being on the raft, it is necessary to start using this device. Instead of drinking water, squeezed fish can be used. But getting it without special devices is extremely difficult. More reliable, easier and more convenient if you have fresh fish, this juice is just sucked.

In catastrophes in high latitudes, an old, less salty sea ice, which differs from the young salty in color and consistency, can serve as a good source for drinking water. Old ice has a bluish color and easily breaks and crumbles..

Based on the book Encyclopedia of Survival at Sea.
Potapov A.V..

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