So you’re headed for paradise. You might be flying to a tropical location, or perhaps you’re sailing on a cruise ship to an island getaway. Along the way, though, something goes terribly awry.

Whether it’s a hurricane or the Bermuda Triangle at work, your plane or your ship loses its way and you end up stranded on an uninhabited island. How likely is that to happen? There are thousands of small, uninhabited islands around the world, so it’s certainly possible!

Now that you’re stranded, what do you do? First of all, don’t panic. Stay calm and take stock of the situation you now find yourself in. Figure out what supplies you have and begin to make plans.

It may also help you to remember that you’re in good company. You’re not the first person ever to be stranded on a deserted island. Daniel Defoe’s classic 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe remains a popular story of a man stranded on an uninhabited island. If you’ve read the story, the main character’s struggles may give you insight into your own situation.

Of course, if you’re a fan of old television shows, you may have seen Gilligan’s Island a time or two. That show featured the crew of the S.S. Minnow and their tourist pals who became shipwrecked on an island. Their adventures amused millions of American viewers for years.

If you become stranded on a deserted island, though, you probably won’t find it very humorous at first. It could be a scary situation that you want to get out of as soon as possible. Here are a few survival tips that you might want to keep in mind in such a situation:

  • Look for a source of fresh water. Given today’s advanced technology, most lost people are found within a few hours to a few days. You can survive for up to 2 weeks or so without food, but you’ll only last 3-4 days without water.
  • Use whatever resources you have to build a shelter to keep you out of the sun and any bad weather.
  • Start a fire. Fire will allow you to purify water and cook any food you may be able to find. You can also use fire to signal for help. A message in a bottle may be tempting, but planes and ships in the area are much more likely to notice a large fire burning in an area thought to be uninhabited.
  • Gather rocks or wood together to form the letters of a distress signal on the beach. You never know when a plane flying overhead will see your message and send help.
  • Search for food. In addition to edible roots, berries and fruits, you may also be able to find all sorts of edible marine life nearby.
  • Stay positive, relax and never give up. Keep yourself busy with the process of survival and maintain a positive attitude. We’re sure you’ll be back to society in no time!

37 Join the Discussion

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    • That’s a WONDERful idea, Julia! Staying hydrated is super important whether you’re on a deserted island or playing outside with friends! Thanks for being the very first Wonder Friend to visit today’s Wonder and leave us a comment…YOU ROCK! :-)

    • Hi, Aparajita! We enjoyed learning all the helpful hints inside today’s Wonder, too! We hope you have a SUPER SPECTACULAR day! :-)

    • We agree with you, Wonder Girl! We have always WONDERed what we would do if we were ever stranded on a deserted island, but now we have some important tips to help us if that ever happens, thanks to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Hello right back to you, Rithik! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! We’re so happy you are a Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That’s a REALLY awesome WONDER, Tyler! Thanks so much for sharing it with your friends in Wonderopolis today! There are some really great links help you to WONDER even MORE about hurricanes inside past Wonder #334 – What Is a Hurricane? You can visit that Wonder by clicking on the word, “hurricane” in today’s Wonder or by clicking on this link: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-hurricane/

      We also have another past Wonder of the Day® about hurricanes we think you will really enjoy: Wonder #307 – How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names? Here is a link that will take you to that Wonder, too: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-hurricanes-get-their-names/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  1. Definitely should drink lots of water, you’ve got to stay hydrated. I also like the part in the video when the plane crashes into the rocks and the guy runs away.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about dessert that looks natural, but it’s not.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about staying hydrated AND your favorite part of the video for today’s Wonder, icebat2! We like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too…it sounds like something super COOL to WONDER about! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Those all sound like great ideas to survive! One time on the first day of my drama class, we had to take turns saying our name, and one thing we would bring with us to a deserted island. I said a cell phone because if it has battery, then you can walk around/climb up high to get a signal, then call for help. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about balloons/helium.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige :)

    • We think you’re super smart, Paige! A cell phone would be a GREAT thing to have with you on a deserted island! Thank you for sharing your story about drama class with us! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • We know way better than that, Ahmed…your English is AWESOME! Do you know how we can tell? Because you leave us WONDERful comments on other Wonders of the Day! :-)

  3. This is a very cool video! Comes in handy… you never know! Everyday my mother and I sit on the pier during sunset and have a question of the day! This gives me an idea for one, so thanks! I enjoyed this video!

    • What a special time to spend with your mom each day, ToriWonderBot! Thank you for sharing that with us! We’re glad you liked the video for this Wonder, too! :-)

  4. I would do what the video said to do!! I also think that finding help is really hard to do if you are in the Bermuda Triangle. That’s my thoughts what are yours?

    • We like your thoughts about following the tips in the video, Ashley! We agree with you! Thank you for sharing your comment with us today…YOU ROCK! :-)

    • We’re so happy we could Wonder together, Jony! We Wonder how you plan to survive on a deserted island… we bet you’ve got some great resources in mind! Keep up the great work! :)

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about this Wonder and also about what you think it would be like to be stranded on an island, Mattias! We appreciate you, Wonder Friend! :-)

  5. Hi wonderopolis
    At school for our homework we have to imagine we are shipwrecked on a desert island. Can you give me the names of a few uninhabited islands that have fresh water?

    • That’s a tough question, Wonder Friend Smiley! We think it’s very important to use your imagination, no matter where you are. If there is no one else on the island, that’s even more important! Would you bring your favorite book with you, or perhaps some paper and markers to draw? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What would you want on a deserted island?
  • What are some basic survival steps to follow if you get stranded on a deserted island?
  • What books or music would you want if you were stranded on a deserted island?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what would you want to have with you? This can be a fun game to play with friends and family members, as it gives you some insight into their favorite things.

Let’s assume that the deserted island you find yourself on has a source of fresh water, shade trees and plenty of coconuts to eat. Rather than think about survival items you might want, focus on entertainment items you might want to make your time pass more peacefully.

Start with books. If you could bring five books to the deserted island with you, which books would you choose? Remember: if it takes years to rescue you, you might be reading these same books over and over again. Would you choose classics, like The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, or would you choose something more modern, such as The Hunger Games?

Now think about music. Assume you have a solar powered music player with you. What songs or albums would you choose to bring with you? What music do you consider timeless? Which artists could you listen to over and over again?

Share your “desert island” books and music with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about which books and music you’d want to be stranded with!

Still Wondering

National Geographic Xpeditions’ How Are Islands Formed? lesson provides children with information about how islands are formed, including a basic knowledge of plate tectonics.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is an all-natural tasty treat! Or is it…?

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.