Tag Archives: Post-apocalyptic survival skills

Of Pizzas And Apocalypses

23 Mar

Of all the food I eat, pizza would be the item that I’d miss the most if I were forced to live in a post-apocalyptic world. I know this for a fact because when I’ve been working offshore or in some remote location for weeks, or even months, at a time, deprived of all but the most basic food (and sometimes not even that), it’s always pizza I find myself craving. If I’m away long enough, I’ll even find myself dreaming about it. That’s how much I miss it. After all, there’s nothing in the world like kicking back with a cold beer and a slice or two, especially with friends.

Now, for many people these days, pizza is what you get from Dominos, or worse Pizza Hut, but that’s not the type of pizza I like. I especially don’t like the mass-produced deep-pan pizza that’s more base than topping and tastes like cardboard warmed up. I know this will be sacrilegious to some people out there, but I prefer mine in the traditional Neapolitan style.

I first encountered these pizzas, with their wafer thin bases, cooked in traditional stone pizza ovens, while staying in a small hotel in northern Italy. Later, when back in Glasgow, in my native Scotland, I was amazed to find that if I sought out just the right little family owned restaurant, I could get it there, too. This shouldn’t have surprised me, after all, Glasgow has a large Italian community which brought us some fantastic ice-cream, deep-fried everything and many, many restaurants, but it did, because the only place I’d ever had pizza before in my home city was in a chain pizza restaurant that favoured something closer to the Chicago style, but even then it wasn’t close.

Now, it might have taken me some twenty years since I first tasted a true Neapolitan-style pizza, but a few weeks ago, I finally decided that, in case civilisation ever came to a sudden, and unexpected, end, I should sit down and work out how to make such pizzas myself (after all, someone has to keep the knowledge alive – even in a world filled with flesh-eating zombies, it’s important that someone still knows how to make good pizza!).

Neopolitan_PizzaSo armed with Google, some search words and some blind faith in my own cooking abilities, I set out to see what I could do, and the result was … passable at best! However, I could see it was a step in the right direction. So, after I’d eaten the first attempt (bad as it was, I still couldn’t face wasting pizza!), I tried again, this time using exactly the right sort of flour the recipe called for (rather than whatever half-used bag I’d found lurking in the back of my food cupboard). This time, it worked so perfectly that even my girlfriend was impressed (okay, I’ll admit it, it took a bit it longer than two attempts, but you’ll have to forgive me for using some artistic licence here to make me look better!).

Now, this has resulted in two problems. The first is that I can now have my favourite pizza whenever I want it, and I’m going to have to try very hard to ration myself, so I don’t balloon up like a … well, a balloon. The second is that when it comes to pizza night in our house, I’m now left with the cooking duties (damn – but it’s a burden I’m willing to shoulder if it means never having to eat supermarket pizza ever again!).

Of course, this is a small price to pay for perfect pizza on tap, and one I’m willing to take, but there’s another issue, too. What if the zombies rise tomorrow? If that happens, I’m going to be left ever-searching whatever post-apocalyptic hell-hole I find myself in searching for the ingredients to make the pizza I’ll no doubt be craving, just like Woodie Harrelson’s Tallahassee and his endless search for Twinkies in the movie Zombieland.

But wait, maybe I could even carve myself out a niche in this post-apocalyptic world as an itinerant pizza-maker, wandering from community to community, bartering my skills for guns, bullets and any other supplies I might need. After all, I’m sure I won’t be the only survivor who’ll be dreaming of pizza once the world has come to an end, and maybe they’d pay anything to get their hands on it again. In this respect, I might find myself following in the footsteps of the last human in the Universe, Arthur Dent, who, after many twists and turns, carves a niche for himself as a sandwich-maker on the planet of Lamuella (for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about – shame on you, now go away and don’t come back until you’ve read all six books in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy!).

So there you have it: Pizza-making turns out to be an important post-apocalyptic survival skill, not just for preserving my own sanity (after all, I couldn’t face living in a world where pizza would never be made again), but also for giving me a role that would allow me create something I could trade with others to obtain whatever I wanted – as long as I can get my hands on a regular supply of the ingredients, that is!


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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

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How To Start A Fire Without A Match: A Key Post-apocalyptic Survival Skill

6 May

Fire. It’s one of man’s oldest accomplishments predating art, clothes, politics, MTV, One Direction and the possibility of nuclear annihilation leading to the rise of radioactive mutant zombies that want nothing better than to chow down on your brains. You can use fire to cook food, heat water, provide warmth and light on the darkest, coldest night and, of course, destroy the undead, but have you ever given any thought to how you’d start a fire without a match? After all, when civilisation collapses, it’s likely you’ll run out of matches pretty damn quickly. What will you do then? I know there’ll be some smart alec out there who’s brandishing a lighter and saying ‘I’d just use my trusty Zippo!’, but that will soon run out of fuel and flints, and when that happens it’ll be about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

So, when your back’s really up against it, how do you start a fire without a match? Well, it’s actually surprisingly easy. All you need is a bit of sun (just a few seconds will do) and some imagination.

The first way is to use something called a solar lighter. This is a nifty little gadget made of polished metal which can be used to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a flammable object, and as the video below shows, if you happen to have one, like I do, you can start a fire in seconds.




Pretty cool, right? But what do you do if you don’t have one of these to hand? Well, go and get one now so that you’re prepared. If you happen to be watching this and the apocalypse has already happened (I’m not going to ask how you’re still managing to get online so you can read this!), then you’ll need another option. How about using an old soda can? You read that correctly, you can start a fire with a soda can. This works on exactly the same principle, and you can see how to do it here:




What happens if you can’t find a soda can? How about using a bottle of water? I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth do you start a fire with water? Actually, it’s quite simple. Do you remember as a kid when that horrible little boy down the street used to fry ants with a magnifying glass just for fun? Well, it turns out he was onto something. Using exactly the same principle, you can use the water in a water bottle to create a lens which can be used to focus sunlight so it can be used to set things on fire. You don’t believe me? Just watch this video:




But what do you do if you don’t have any water? Believe it or not, you can use urine! You heard that right, you can start a fire with your own pee. Watch and learn, you never know, one day it might save your life. Or more likely, let you win a few bets by demonstrating how it can be done:




Ahhh, I hear you say, but what happens if there isn’t any sun, you know, like at night, or in the middle of summer in Aberdeen (if you’ve ever lived in Aberdeen in Scotland, you’ll know what I’m talking about!). Well, remember that old Boy Scout trick of rubbing two sticks together? This actually works, and it’s all based on the fact that when you rub things together you generate friction and friction generates heat. Here’s how:




This is just one way to generate fire through friction, and there are many other approaches, including fire bows and fire drills. You can find a comparison of all these different techniques here (although, as you will see, you need to be a bit of an expert to actually get these techniques to work):




Any if you don’t have any sticks? How about rubbing two stones together? Well, not really rubbing, more like striking one against the other. This is the most primitive way to produce fire and is probably the first one that humans ever used. You can see someone using this method here:




Of course, all these methods will only give you the initial spark. If you actually want to create a fire, you’ll need to know how to select the right tinder, kindling and wood, and how to build your fire so it won’t simply smoke for a few minutes before fizzling out, but that’s a whole different article altogether!



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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Six Dos And Don’ts Of A Zombie Apocalypse

16 Oct

Recently, I noticed someone had ended up at this blog using the search term ‘What to do and not do in a zombie apocalypse’. I thought this was an interesting idea, and decided to put together six tongue-in-cheek dos and don’ts on a zombie apocalypse. So with no further ado, they are:

1. When the zombies start to rise, do head for the hills as quickly as possible. Don’t stand in the middle of the road, waving your arms in the air while screaming at the top of your lungs.

2. When the zombies are hammering at the door, do pile all the furniture you can find against it. Don’t throw it wide open and invite them in for a bite to eat.

3. When trying to kill zombies, do aim for the head. Don’t shoot wildly at anything which moves until you run out of bullets.

4. When you see a zombie in the middle of the road, do put the pedal to the metal and mow it down without a second thought. Don’t pull over and offer it a lift.

5. When fleeing from a zombie horde, do run as fast as you can. Don’t stop to re-tie your shoelaces just because they feel a little tight.

6. When hiding in your safe house, do keep quiet and make as little noise as possible. Don’t crank the stereo up and invite the neighbours round for a wild party.

If you have your own tongue-in-cheek dos and dont’s for a zombie apocalypse, feel free to post them as comments on this article.



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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Forever Autumn: A Post-apocalyptic Survivor’s Favourite Time Of Year

25 Sep

Those of you who like your 1970s concept albums based around early twentieth century post-apocalyptic fiction will know where the first part of the title of this post comes from and it happens to be one of my favourite songs so I couldn’t resist shoe-horning it in. However, this post has a serious side for those interested in post-apocalyptic survival.

Autumn (or fall as it is known in some parts of the English-speaking world) marks the transition from the heat of summer to the cool of winter, and in almost any post-apocalyptic situation it will be the only time of year when you won’t have to struggle to find food. This is because you’ll be able to find food everywhere, just waiting for you to pick it, catch it or shoot it – or at least that’s how it is in Scotland at this time of year. However, if you want to be able to make the most of the bounty that will surround you, you’ll need to know what you’re doing because making a simple schoolboy error can result in at best a badly upset stomach and at worst a long and painful death.

So what am I talking about here? Well it’s what has come to be known as wild foraging. In its most recent incarnation, this is a trendy new middle-class pastime endorsed and encouraged by a flock of celebrity chefs, but when I was a kid this was just a way to make money stretch by getting food for free (I don’t think I ever ate store-bought jam until I was well into my teens). Wild foraging is, quite simply, making the most of the food that is available all around you in the countryside, and sometimes even in the city. At this time of year it’s everywhere and knowing how to exploit it will be a key skill for post-apocalyptic survival.

Wild brambles are everywhere in autumn, and you can even find them on any waste ground in most British cities.

Wild brambles are everywhere in autumn, and you can even find them on any waste ground in most British cities.

Just to show you how much there is, this is what I found along a half mile stretch of a long-distance pathway called The West Highland Way that’s within a day’s walk of where I live in Glasgow. Firstly, there’s brambles. Brambles, known outside of Scotland as blackberries, grow almost anywhere that’s left unattended and in autumn they provide a super-abundance of large, black, tasty fruits. There’s two secrets to picking them. The first is to wear a thick glove on one hand so you can push the thorny runners out of the way without getting hurt. The second is never to pick anything that is below the height that a dog can lift its leg (if you’re wondering why, it’s the same reason you shouldn’t eat yellow snow!

Known as haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree can be used to make a tasty jam.

Known as haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree can be used to make a tasty jam.

Hawthorn trees and hedgerows are also awash with their bright red fruits by late September. Haws are most often turned into jams and jellies, which can then be stored to provide sustenance throughout the long winter months, but you can also eat them raw from the tree (apparently according to this source – I’ve never actually tried this though). You can also eat the leaves of the hawthorn tree (they used to be known as the poor man’s bread and cheese because of their flavour). These are tastier when they are young and tender in spring and by autumn they can be a bit tough and bitter, but they’re still better than nothing.

If you know what you're doing acorns can be ground into flour to make bread.

If you know what you’re doing acorns can be ground into flour to make bread.

Acorns can be found anywhere there are oak trees, and this will include many city parks and tree-lined avenues. You might have to soak them for a while to get out all the rather poisonous tannins they contain, but do it right (it’s a bit of a black art and isn’t something for the uninitiated to try) and you can grind them into flour to make bread.

Rose hip are what form if you leave roses on their bushes, and believe it or not they're edible.

Rose hip are what form if you leave roses on their bushes, and believe it or not they’re edible.

Who would have thought that roses could be a source of food? Well, they are. Leave the flowers on the plant and they form edible rose hips. Again, you need to know what you’re doing to process them properly but get it right and they can be mixed with haws to create jams and jellies with a richer flavour. You have to be careful about seeds though as they can cause a great deal of irritation if ingested.

Nettles might sting, but they can also make a tasty soup.

Nettles might sting, but they can also make a tasty soup.

We might think of nettles as weeds, and they do grow anywhere shady, but boil them up and you can make a tasty soup. Okay, tasty is over-doing it a bit, but it hot and nutritious and that’s what counts when you’re talking about post-apocalyptic survival. You also need to remember the ‘dog leg’ rule mentioned for brambles when collecting nettles to eat.

Apples can be found both growing wild and city gardens, and they can be a great food supply.

Apples can be found both growing wild and city gardens, and they can be a great food supply.

Apples are everywhere in autumn and whether you’re talking about wild trees or ones in your local parks and gardens, come the end of the world, you’ll be able to stuff yourself with them at this time of year. You can eat them raw off the trees or cook them into a wide range of pies, crumbles and sauces. Alternatively, you can turn them into cider (whether of the alcoholic version found in Britain or the non-alcoholic version that seems to be favoured in the US). Find a cool, dry place and you’ll be able to store them, providing you with a ready supply of food throughout the cold and dark days of winter when there will be little else available.

Elderberries can be used to cordial syrups or, if you'd prefer something a little stronger, wine.

Elderberries can be used to cordial syrups or, if you’d prefer something a little stronger, wine.

While elderberries are inedible when they are raw, if you boil them up, you can a nice rich syrup which you can use to flavour other food. However, in Scotland most people who collect elderberries use them to make elderberry wine, and let’s face it, after a long day of surviving the collapse of civilisation, you could do with kicking back with a nice glass of red.

In Britain, sloe berries are most often used to make something called sloe gin.

In Britain, sloe berries are most often used to make something called sloe gin.

If your day’s been really bad and wine just won’t do it, you could always hit the gin, and for that you need sloe berries. It’s not real gin but it can have one hell of a kick. This makes it the perfect thing help you forget your troubles of few hours after you’ve just watched your best friend being torn apart by zombies. Of course, you can’t get too drunk or you might not hear the undead horde when they come back for you!

So as you can see, there’s plenty out there to feed the hungry post-apocalyptic survivor in autumn, and so far I’ve only considered the plants I found. There are fungi everywhere at the moment too – although I don’t currently have the knowledge to know which are edible and which are lethal so I don’t go near them. There’s also animals making a welcome return to my local countryside that add to the autumnal food base. The rivers are full of Atlantic salmon returning to spawn. Find the right spot, and they’ll pretty much leap into your arms. Okay, it’s not quite that easy, but at certain waterfalls you’ll see salmon as long as three feet trying to leap up them to get to the place they hatched years before and it’ll be your best chance of catching them with little or no effort. The salmon are not the only thing migrating around here, and the geese which over-winter in Scotland are starting to arrive. Once they’re here, flocks, which might be several hundred strong, will graze the fields each day and roost on the lakes at night, and they’d be a tempting target for anyone craving a bit of fresh meat.

Of course, if you want to be able to access this cornucopia of wild food, you really need to know what you’re doing because the stakes are high: if you eat the wrong thing or prepare it in the wrong way, you and anyone else you feed it to can end up dead or incapacitated (and in a post-apocalyptic world they are pretty much the same thing).

Luckily, there’s plenty of places you can go to learn some foraging skills, and it’s surprising the number of courses which have sprung up in the last few years where you can go along and have someone show you exactly what you need to know. So don’t delay, book one today because you never know the world might end tomorrow and you need to know what’s safe to eat and what’s not. And even if the world doesn’t end, you’ve gained a useful life skill which allows you to eat for free – and let’s face it with the way the economy is these days, anything that helps you keep the bills down is a bonus!


***WARNING: Tasty things often look very similar to poisonous things, so do not eat anything unless you know exactly what it is. Also, you should not use the photos in this post to identify what might be edible and what might not. I’m no botanist, or trained wild forager, and while I’ve done my best to make sure I’ve photographed the right plants to illustrate this article, I cannot guarantee it.***


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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Extreme Running: The Perfect Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Training

23 Sep

You see them everywhere these days, people in their fancy (or, in my own case, not so fancy) running gear, jogging along as they pound the pavements beneath their feet. Most of them are probably just doing it for the good of their health, but I’m sure at least some are thinking about the cardio rule from the movie Zombieland, and are doing it as part of their zombie apocalypse preparedness training. However, while it might help keep them fit, I suspect it will do little to help their survival if (or should that be when?) the undead rise. This is because there’s a big difference between running slowly round the block while listening to your favourite tunes on you iPod and running for your life. This difference is that to survive in a zombie apocalypse you need to be able to think on your feet while you run. For this reason, if you want to prepare yourself for life in a zombie apocalypse, you should consider not just running, but extreme running.

Now, I know you probably won’t be familiar with this term, but it’s a catch-all term for a growing collection of extreme events held all over the world which set challenges that mix basic running with other skills. Take the Spartan Sprint events which are held across the US, Canada and the UK. These mix a 3 mile race with 15 pretty serious obstacles which you need to get over in order to complete it. This is exactly the type of thing you’d need to be able to do to survive the immediate threats at the start of a zombie outbreak (forget about fighting back – getting the hell out of there as fast as you can is always going to be your best option). If this sounds a bit too light weight for you, there’s harder versions in the Spartan Racing series, right to marathons with as may as 50 obstacles for you to surmount.

Similar to the Spartan races are ones known as Beasts. These tend to put particular emphasis on the obstacles and are generally over much rougher terrain, and are based on assault courses used in special forces training. If want to get an idea of what one of these would involve, you can look at the course for my local one in Scotland, called, quite simply, The Beast Race.

Beyond these relatively simple obstacle courses are the more complex adventure racing and rogaining events. These are long-distance races across hills, mountains, rivers, lakes and seas which combine a range of skills and challenges, and often take place across several days. In them, you have to carry everything with you and cannot use motorised transport or GPSs for navigation, and the clock never stops meaning at the end of a day you have to choose between getting some rest so you’re fresh for the next day, and carrying on into the night to save time. Now that good training for surviving in a zombie apocalypse.

Of course, none of these will prepare you for being chased by a horde of zombies, but this is where the 2.8 Hours Later events come in. These are open-ended events which take places in real world locations over several hours and involve being chased by real life zombies (ok, they’re only actors dressed as zombies but they seem real enough when the jump out at you from an alleyway – if you don’t believe me watch the trailer posted on their website!). If that doesn’t help prepare you for surviving when the undead rise, then nothing will.

Finally, if you don’t want the fear when you’re running to be fake, there’s the famous Running with the Bulls in Pamplona in Spain. This involves hurtling through narrow cobbled streets over a distance of 825 metres. It doesn’t sound like much until you find out you have to do this while being chased by a herd of bulls. It’s probably the closest you can ever get to being in a crowd fleeing from marauding zombies (until a zombie apocalypse happens, but by them the time for preparation is over!).

So what’s the take home message here? Well, I think it’s that while the cardio rule is good, there’s more to it than just being able to do a couple of laps around the block. Instead, to prepare yourself for a zombie apocalypse, you need to train yourself to do more than just run! And for once I’m going to put my money where my mouth is because I’ve rather rashly agreed to take part in my local Spartan Sprint in Edinburgh. Luckily, I’ve missed this year’s event so I’ve got just under a year to get myself in shape (or work out a way of getting out of it!).


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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

I Spy With My Little Eye, Something Beginning With Z … Or Do I?

11 Sep

Yesterday, I realised there’s a potential fatal flaw in my ability to survive a zombie apocalypse. This came as a bit of a shock as I always thought I had a pretty good post-apocalyptic survival skills base: I’m a reasonable shot with both a rifle and a shotgun, and I can handle a crossbow thanks to regularly using one to take skin samples from whales; I can hold my own a sword pretty well thanks to spells fencing for various university teams down the years; I might not do it as much as I used to when I was younger, but I can deal with being stuck in the great outdoors and sleeping out in the open; I’m reasonably proficient in foraging in the wild, and I know how to both hunt and fish; I can drive pretty much any car, motorbike, van, motorboat and sailboat; I’m petty good with a hammer and nails, and I can do basic engine repairs if I really have to. I’ve even been doing my cardio recently and can cover 5 miles in a reasonable time (although admittedly that has more to do with attempting to hold back the tide middle-age spread for a few more years rather than preparing for a zombie apocalypse).

So what’s changed? Well, I’ve just realised overlooked one small problem: I’m so short-sighted I can barely see my feet if I don’t have my contact lenses in or my glasses on. I hadn’t really thought about the implications this would have for survival in the post-apocalyptic world until I glanced in the cupboard where I keep my monthly disposal contact lenses and thought, wow I’ve got enough stock-piled to last any collapse of civilisation. Then I thought, hang on, they’re going to run out some time, then what am I going to do?

That’s okay I thought, I can go back to glasses and I should be fine. Then I remembered an incident from when I was about fourteen. I was at an outward bound survival training camp on the west coast of Scotland, when, thanks to mucking about when should have been listening, I managed to lose my only pair of glasses over the side the boat that was going to drop me off on a remote island. There, I’d have to survive alone for two days before I’d be picked up again. All I had with me other than the clothes on my back was a box of matches, a single pot and a knife (this was the eighties when you could still give kids weapons and maroon them on remote islands in Scotland without too many people asking about things like health and safety!). Anyway, rather than admit I’d lost my glasses and could barely see, I when through the whole 48 hour survival test with much of the world being little more than an indistinct blur.

Thinking back on this, I know I’d be able to forage and collect enough food even without being able to see too well (I did it back then and so I could do it again if I had to), but the bit where I’d fail miserably would be defending myself against marauding zombies. You see without my glasses, before I’d be able to tell whether any rapidly approaching fuzzy shape is friend or foe, they’d be on top of me, and if it turned out they were a zombie it’d be to late to do anything beyond screaming as they chewed the flesh from my face. This would put me at a severe disadvantage, and one which I probably wouldn’t be able to overcome.

So what does all this mean? Well, firstly, the moment I finish writing this post I’m going out to buy a spare pair of specs – just in case! Secondly, if I do find myself in a zombie apocalypse, I’m going to have to make damn sure nothing happens to my glasses…


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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Reading The Skies – An Essential Post-Apocalyptic Survival Skill

29 Jul

How do you find out what the weather’s going to be like later today, or tomorrow, or even the day after that? Most likely you turn your TV over to the Weather Channel, go to your favourite weather site on the web or fire up a weather app on your smart phone. Yet, if (or should that be when?) civilisation collapses and you’re left fighting for you life against the zombies which now rule the land, none of these options will be available to you, and all you’ll have to rely on is your own weather forecasting skills. I know what you’re thinking: ‘If there’s zombies every where, why the hell am I going to need to know what the weather’s doing? I mean, I’m not exactly going to be throwing a barbecue and inviting the neighbours round, am I?

However, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sudden storms can bring down your defences if you’re not prepared for them, while high winds, heavy rain and unexpected frosts can damaged crops and food supplies. Lightening strikes can start bush fires and tornadoes destroy buildings. Snow storms and flash floods can trap you out in the open if they catch you unawares, while hurricanes can level whole cities (or whatever’s left of them!). All of this is on top of having to face the daily struggles to find enough food and avoid being eaten by the rampaging dead. Yet, the weather needn’t be a problem for you if you know what’s coming and can prepare for it ahead of time. It’s only when it catches you with your guard down that it’s dangerous.

So how can you tell what’s coming your way? The secret here is being able to read the skies and unlock the information they holds. Mostly this is about knowing what different cloud formations (or lack there of) mean.

Lenticular clouds, like these ones, can appear dramatic and can indicate that a weather front is coming.

Lenticular clouds, like these ones, can appear dramatic and can indicate that a weather front is coming. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

For example, dramatic cloud formations on the horizon can mean bad weather’s coming your way. In particular, keep an eye out for clouds, such as lenticular ones, which can indicate turbulence up in the sky and can indicated a front is coming, bringing with it rain, winds and cooler temperatures.

Small fluffy Stratus clouds high in the sky usually mean good settled weather.

Small fluffy Stratus clouds high in the sky usually mean good settled weather. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

While lenticular clouds indicate a turbulent atmosphere above your head, the high fluffy Stratus clouds indicate stability, and so mean good weather. When you see these clouds you know there is little you need to worry about, well apart from the fact the world has come to an end … the zombies of course!

Cumulus clouds develop as hot air rises and given enough time can develop into cumulonimbus, or thunder, clouds.

Cumulus clouds develop as hot air rises and given enough time can develop into cumulonimbus, or thunder, clouds. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

Then there’s the convection clouds. These are isolated cloud formations created by warm air rising up into the sky. They start out as little puffy balls, but given time, they can build, first into Cumulus and then Cumulonimbus clouds which can bring sudden, torrential rain, strong winds, thunder and lightning.

Tendrils of cloud reaching down from the base of thunder clouds towards the ground are the first signs that a tornado is one its way.

Tendrils of cloud reaching down from the base of thunderclouds towards the ground are the first signs that a tornado is one its way. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

If you see Cumulonimbus clouds forming in your vicinity, you’ll want to find shelter fast, but you still need to keep an eye on them. Why? Because given the right conditions, thunder clouds can turn into tornadoes, and given the damage tornadoes can do, you need to be able to tell if one is forming in the skies nearby. The key is to keep an eye out for little tendrils of cloud reaching down from the base of the cloud towards the ground. These are the first signs that a twister might be on its way. The next sign is when they start to develop into funnel clouds. If they do, that’s the time to get out of the way, and fast, because you don’t want to be anywhere near it when it touches down.

Vultures circling in the sky means death on the ground, and in a post-apocalyptic world, that can mean zombies too!

Vultures circling in the sky means death on the ground, and in a post-apocalyptic world, that can mean zombies too! Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

Of course, there can be more information in the skies than just the weather. Vultures or other scavenging birds circling in the sky can indicate something’s wrong up ahead because there must be something dead to draw them together. And where there’s dead things, there’s probably zombies feasting, meaning the area is best avoided. Birds can also tell you other things too. Swallows fly closer to the ground when rain is on its way, while a flock of birds suddenly bursting into the air en masse means something’s startled them, and that may well mean undead are approaching.

Contrails streaking across blue cloudless skies can give hope because it means someone somewhere is doing better than you are, and that help might one day be on its way.

Contrails streaking across blue cloudless skies can give hope because it means someone somewhere is doing better than you are, and that help might one day be on its way. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

Then there’s the signs of hope that can be up there in the skies above our heads. Think about one of the key moments in 28 Days Later, where Jim spots a plane leaving its characteristic contrail streaking across the sky above the trees. Whenever I see this now, I always think post-apocalyptic thoughts and wonder how I’d cope if the rage virus really did exist.

So hopefully this has shown you that being able to read the skies is an important skill to have in your post-apocalyptic survival tool kit and, with that in mind, here’s a challenge for you. Below is a photo of a real sky where something dramatic has clearly happened. I took in the 1990s on Tilloo Cay in the Bahamas, looking west towards Florida.

I’ll give a free, signed copy of my book For Those In Peril On The Sea and a limited edition For Those In Peril On The Sea promotional coffee mug to one person who correctly identifies what the photo below tells you about what happened here. If I get more than one right answer, I’ll randomly select a winner from all those who get it right. This competition will be open until next Monday (the 5th of August 2013) and I’ll post the winner, and more importantly the answer, as soon as I can after that. To enter, just fill out the form below the picture itself.

What's going on in the sky  here? If you think you know, fill in the form below and you could win a signed copy of 'For Those In Peril On The Sea'.

What’s going on in the sky here? If you think you know, fill in the form below and you could win a signed copy of ‘For Those In Peril On The Sea’. Photo copyright: C.M. Drysdale.

All pictures in this post are copyright Colin M. Drysdale. Please do not use them for any purpose without express written permission.


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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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.