Did you hear about that trail runner in New Zealand who got lost and drank her own breast milk to survive the night? Is she some kind of survival genius?
—Dan Wilmes, via email
Two things about that: One, not sure survival genius adequately describes someone who got lost on a trail run. Second, and more importantly, she wasn’t in much real danger, not from starvation anyway. We’ve trained ourselves to eat three squares a day and named the sensation that forms between those feedings hunger. While normally as good a reminder as your car’s gas light, hunger is less of a reliable signal in survival situations. Simply put: It takes a while to starve to death—a long while. Thirty days is a reasonable guideline. To fixate on food draws your attention away from where it belongs: securing shelter and warmth (the lack of which will kill you a lot quicker than starvation). The woman in New Zealand didn’t do either of those all that well, though she did pile dirt on top of herself (leaf litter would have lofted better). However. I’d be remiss not to award her some style points—once I get my head around the anatomy.
Got a question for Den Mother? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.