9 Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About



Feature | Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About

You may have witnessed a shipwreck in the movies, in the news, on television, or the internet. But have you ever thought that if you do get shipwrecked, will you be able to survive it?

Surviving a shipwreck starts from the moment the vessel starts to take in water unnaturally – where it tilts and sinks in the process. There can be two scenarios you can find yourself in. Either you will be adrift at sea or you will end up on land. The end goal is to survive either one to the point where you can get rescued.

Shipwreck Survival Skills: Surviving the Deep Waters


1. Be Ready

Be Ready | Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About
Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Have a bug out bag with you before taking a sea trip. There are tons of ways to build your own survival bag where you can be comfortable bringing it around with you. It will contain all the necessary essentials for your survival at sea. In case you might not be able to grab a life vest, learn how to stay afloat by taking swimming lessons.

2. Be Informed

Read the emergency signs all over the place once you board the ship. There are a few things you need to do before the ship heads out to sea. These are:

  • Determine where the nearest exit is from your room.
  • Familiarize yourself with the insides of the ship.
  • Find out where the life vests and life rafts are. Don’t forget to read the instructions on how to use a life vest and deploy a lifeboat.
  • Locate where they place a first aid kit.

3. Stay Calm

Stay Calm | Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About

Stay Calm Photo by Wikimedia Commons

You have to stay calm when evacuating the ship. You must keep a sound mind when doing this as there will be a lot of screaming and shouting going on. Pay attention to the instructions of the captain or crew over the PA system. If you’ve done the first step, you may already have a life vest on you and would be heading to the life raft. Make sure you leave everything else except your bug-out bag.

4. Jump up Top and Stay Away

If you fail to get on a life raft and you have to jump off the ship, do this at the topmost part of the ship and at a spot away from everybody else. If you jump at the lower sections, someone might land on you hurting you or knocking you unconscious. Once in the water, swim farthest away from the ship and onto a raft or floating debris. Just watch out because there might be other people trying to grab you out of panic pulling you underwater.

5. Perform First Aid Treatment

Perform First Aid Treatment | Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About

Perform First Aid Treatment Photo by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

If you have cuts or wounds, you can wrap them up to minimize or stop the bleeding. Add some extra layers of clothing on you to help your body cope with temperature changes in the water. Hypothermia can set in if you have very less clothing on you.

6. Stay Together

Tie all life rafts together. Staying in a group will increase your chances of survival. If life rafts are unavailable, put your arms over each other’s shoulder and form one huge ring of people. This will ease the efforts of floating on your own and be able to help those who don’t have life vests. It will also make you a bigger target for search and rescue teams above and on sea level.

7. Be Ready to Defend Yourselves

Being together will also give you the capability of defending each other especially from predators of the sea like sharks and killer whales. Grab any pole or a stick you can use to poke at them. If worse comes to worst, aim for the eyes and the gills.

8. Signal Rescue Units

Signal Rescue Units | Shipwreck Survival Skills You Should Know About

Signal Rescue Units Photo by

This is where your bug-out bag will come in handy. It will contain flares, light sticks, waterproof flashlights, and a signal mirror. It may also contain a cell phone and a two-way radio. You can use any of these to call or signal for help. If you’re on an uninhabited island, you can start a signal fire using the fire-starting kit in your bug out bag. You can use leaves and brightly colored clothing to form an SOS sign.

9. Head for the Nearest Island

If an island is in view, head off and start swimming or rowing for it. Other survival skills like starting a fire, building a temporary shelter, foraging or hunting for food, and acquiring drinkable water will come into play. If you’re on an uninhabited island, that is. If you are fortunate and land on an island with even the smallest of populations, then you’re more than blessed because an inhabited island will mean there may be forms of communication and a hospital.


Watch this video by AWE me on how to survive a shipwreck – EPIC HOW TO:

There are a lot of survival methods for castaways at sea or on an island. Ultimately, be of sound mind and never lose hope. Never allow your circumstance to weaken your morale or will to live. A person with a broken spirit is already a dead one.

Do you have any more suggestions or comments you might want to add about how to survive a shipwreck? Please add them in the comments section below!

Up Next: Survival Skills | The Psychology Of Staying Alive


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. Please read our full disclaimer here.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 21, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.


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  1. Anonymous

    March 6, 2018 at 7:39 AM

    You do understand that killer whales do not attack humans don’t you?

    • Irma

      September 28, 2018 at 1:25 PM

      Didn’t know that. Why are they called killing whales. Please reply…I really do not know this.

      • Queequeg

        December 19, 2018 at 10:39 AM

        See wikipedia – “However, wild orcas are not considered a real threat to humans, as there is no record of a wild orca outright attacking or harming a human.”

        They are called killer whales because they will hunt down and eat larger species of whale. They usually hunt in packs when bringing down larger prey. Sailors would observe orcas hunting so they were called “killer whales”. In contrast, baleen whales are filter feeders and just strain out microscopic plankton from the ocean.

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  5. AncestorLady

    September 23, 2018 at 7:16 PM

    Um, none of these are survival skills. These are tips. Should have included how to pack a bug out bag differently for sea excursions. I dont normally carry flares or glow sticks because I have other sources of lighting but they would be useful at sea. I dont normally carry a signal mirror either because in a SHTF situation on land, most likely I dont want anyone to find me. I want to get home alone. I would pack my bag quite differently for a sea disaster.

  6. Irma

    September 28, 2018 at 1:26 PM

    Didn’t know that. Why are they called killing whales. Please reply…I really do not know this.

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  10. Elizabeth

    March 16, 2019 at 3:33 PM

    Killer whales are the enemy of sharks, as are dolphins, Both are not a danger to humans, normally.

  11. Anonymous Weirdo

    April 23, 2021 at 10:11 AM

    Hmmmmmmmm… Maybe the killer whales might accidentally bump into the human and/or push them into a sharp coral, or maybe mistake the human for a small whale and try to attack. I honestly don’t know, I’m less than a beginner survivalist XD

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