11th Mar 2013 2:55pm | By Alasdair Morton
The adventurer on his recent 60-day stint naked and alone on a Fijian island, and how managing his mind proved the biggest challenge
How did show Naked And Marooned come about?
A couple of years ago I walked the length of the Amazon. I self-filmed it and sold it to the Discovery Channel. It went well so they asked what I’d like to do next. I didn’t want to go away for another two-and-a-half years so I thought if we constrain ourselves to 60 days – how do we make that tough enough? We started taking out things: no help from outsiders, no tools, or food. Then it became – if you were dropped off on a desert island for two months with nothing,
stark-bollock naked, how would you survive?
It’s a pure, simple survival task.
What was the first thing that you did?
It was bizarre. Naked was meant to represent having nothing. When the producer was filming the drop-off in the boat he turned and said, “Time to take your shorts off, Ed.” I gingerly took them off and walked up the beach with the camera equipment, but when I couldn’t hear the motor anymore it smacked me in the face. I thought it’d take a week to start going downhill mentally, but it was almost panic straight away. This might be TV but it was incredibly real!
What were your first objectives?
I didn’t know where there was food or water, and I had to handhold myself through the first day: “Come on, Ed, you know your survival priorities, all you need to do today is find water.” A couple of hours in I found a cave for shelter, too. But I didn’t eat at all on the first day.
Did you achieve your goal of coming out fitter than when you went in?
Yes. I did a series of exercises at the end of each week – press ups, squats, chin ups, shuttle sprints – and my results in the last week were better than when I arrived, but I was nine kilos lighter. Lean as a butcher’s dog partly because I thought coconut flesh was a good source of carbohydrate, but it is 89 per cent saturated fat. I was living off protein and fat with no carbs!
How did the isolation affect you?
It was the biggest hurdle. Before the project I spent a bit of time with Aboriginals who have a simple perspective on man’s relationship with nature. When they do a coming of age ceremony, they spend a period of time on their own in the bush. But they told me I was underestimating how difficult it would be.
How is that?
They see that you have three brains: first your gut, second your heart and the smallest and least useful is the cognitive brain, the one we use for everything. They said if I lived my life on the island in the logic brain I’d drive myself mad. But they had a tip – make a stone circle near your camp, so whenever you feel fear get in it and tell yourself you’re safe. I did that a lot, and irrespective of my beliefs, it worked.