I’ve long held that one of the best defences against zombies is to put a large body of water between you and them. Yet, while I’d happily based my own personal survival strategy on this premise if I suddenly found myself in a zombie-infested world, I still have a niggling suspicion that I might be making a serious error of judgement here so I thought I’d explore this possibility here to see whether it holds up or not.
So do I mean by a large body of water? I’m not thinking a gentle little stream or a garden pond here. I’m thinking of something much bigger like the Amazon, or one of the Great Lakes, or better still a large expanse of open sea. Also, I’m not just talking about getting to some island and holing up there; I’m also thinking about using a boat to move around and perhaps even live on.
As far as I can work out the main thing that’s likely to determine whether this survival strategy would work or not is what type of zombies we’re talking about. If it’s living humans infected with some sort of disease or chemical agent that causes them to act like zombies (as was the case in 28 Days Later) then I think my strategy is sound. It’s unlikely such infected would be able to swim or to use boats or anything like that, and they are likely to drown during any prolonged immersion. This means any sort of body of water is likely to act as a barrier to such zombies getting to you. In fact, under these conditions, even a relatively small body of water might well be very effective way to help you survive a zombie apocalypse.
If, on the other hand, we’re talking about more traditional re-animated corpses, things could be very different. These types of zombies are dead already and so there are no obvious reasons as to why they couldn’t move through water in pretty much the same way they do on land. Even if they can’t walk along the bottom, they can float around and that means they could potentially be carried long distances before clambering ashore and attacking you. Even on a boat, you might not be safe. You could well wake in the middle of the night to find them pulling themselves up your anchor lines or dragging they’re rotting corpses over the side. This is certainly a scenario that was used in World War Z.
However, there’s still one issue. Being dead, these zombies will rot and fall apart, and any time spent in the water is only going to speed up this process. I’ve got no idea if any of the many creatures that would normally feed on flesh left floating around in the sea would eat zombies but they might. All this means is that while undead zombies can survive the occasional dunking unscathed, it’s unlikely they’d make it through any sort of prolonged period in water without, quite literally, falling to pieces. So using water as part of your survival strategy may well work even against the undead, it’s just that it’ll probably have to be a much wider barrier before it becomes effective. Therefore, if, come the apocalypse, you find yourself facing the walking dead, water may still be your friend. Just don’t go thinking about an island that’s only a few miles from the nearest shore; instead think about one that’s well over the horizon and well away from any human habitation.
So no matter the type of zombie you come up against, when they rise up and take over the world think good old H20 because (at least from my point of view) zombies and water really don’t mix. You just have to think carefully about exactly where you’ll go.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK, and available as an ebook and in print the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.