Island environments like the Hawaiian chain present us with an entirely different set of scenarios when it comes to survival. The majority of islands are created by volcanoes that erupt off the ocean floor and eventually poke through the surface. Once the island has been established the volcanoes either continue to burp up molten lava or they retreat into a state of dormancy. There is no such thing as an “extinct volcano.” It may not be active but it always has the potential to spring back to life at any time in the future. This poses an eternal risk to residents of these habitats. Volcanoes are just one of the hazards that make island survival unique.
In conjunction with volcanoes islanders also have to be concerned with seasonal inclement weather in the form of tropical storms and hurricanes. Having lived in Hawaii for approximately five years I became all too familiar with the claustrophobic nature of island life. I was stuck on the island of Oahu in 1982 when Hurricane Iwa made landfall. At the time I was 15 years old, talk about having nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide, you’re on an island in the middle of the Pacific, there is nothing to do but bunker down and ride out the storm.
If volcanoes and hurricanes aren’t enough to contend with islands such as Hawaii, the Big Island that have active volcanoes like Kilauea that erupt almost daily, pose another unique issue. This volcano spews lava directly into the ocean creating lava deltas, or benches. These new land masses are unstable and often break off in enormous sections crashing to the slope below the surface. When these large land masses break off and plunge into the sea they have the potential of creating tsunamis. As you can see island survival techniques require vast knowledge and preparation.
Island Survival for Vog and Sulfuric Gases
“Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) could be a significant health problem and so we prepared ourselves by buying a detector that warns us when the SO2 levels get dangerous.
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is an even more deadly gas from volcanoes, but it smells strongly of rotten eggs, so if you ever smell that, get out fast!”
Having an early alert system doesn’t make sense without a plan for taking action once it goes off. We bought gas masks from Ace hardware store to use in case our SO2 detector starts beeping due to high levels of SO2. The masks have carbon activated filters that protect against toxic gas. Their purpose is to give us time to get out of the area. They won’t protect for long periods. Our distributor tells us that SO2 reduces oxygen to the body, so you can’t go to sleep, even with a mask on or you will suffocate at the levels of SO2 being reported near the volcano ( 9 parts per million).”
Getting out of the affected area appears to be the general theme when developing a plan of action for island survival where active volcanoes are present. Personally, I would recommend having a boat if you live on an island, with an early enough warning and navigational skills a boat provides your best method of vacating the area and heading out to sea until the dust settles. Of course you will need to be able to launch from an unaffected side of the island if possible. You are surrounded by water; do not let anyone tell you that having a boat handy for island survival is a bad idea.