Rated S for Survival: Mythbusters – Duct Tape Island

27 March, 2012

Recently the popular show Mythbusters launched a new season with a special episode “Duct Tape Island”. The hosts were “stranded” on a deserted tropical island equipped with nothing more than a never-ending pallet of duct tape. They had a check-list of key tasks or goals that had to be accomplished using duct tape and whatever they could harvest from the island. Basic survival-oriented things like finding food and water, building shelter, etc.

Compared to other survival TV shows (Man vs Wild, Survivorman, etc), it’s actually a pretty poor episode. But in fairness, they “hung a lamp on it” from the get-go. They never pretended to really be alone and unsupported out there. But there are a couple of lessons I think we can pick up from them.

The biggest and best thing this episode demonstrates, in my opinion, is the potency of creative thinking. As mentioned elsewhere in this site, good equipment is great, but I’ll take a creative, flexible thinker over a truck load of hardware every time. They demonstrated how one asset or tool can have many uses that might not have been obvious as first glance. The boy also did a good job of showing an awareness of their surroundings, what could be gathered and how things could be combined or used in interesting, unexpected ways.

I also thought the episode did a good job, at least at first, of showing what this situation might be like for the majority of “regular” people. The first night was just spent on the ground without any real covering or shelter. They spent far too much time looking for water. It was all mocked-up of course, but it was probably a better version of what you or I would experience, then something like Man vs Wild.

I did feel that a few of their creations, while creative, were unnecessarily complicated for the kind of pay-off it would have realistically delivered. I’m looking at you duct-tape hat and duct-tape chicken-web. And of course it was a cheat that they had unlimited duct tape supplies.

Honestly, though, I think this may be my favorite episode to-date. It has its flaws of course, and isn’t a very good survival show, true. But what it does show is the strength of creative thinking. I’ve often said, and will continue to repeat, that the greatest tool you have at your disposal in an emergency is a creative mind. That the episode also happens to be fairly entertaining (albeit, light on actual busting of myths) is a nice bonus for the viewer. I highly recommend that you see this one if you get a chance.

Links for reference:
Duct Tape at Amazon.com

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