Forty-eight-year-old Lillian Ip is grateful to be alive after five days stranded in the Australian wilderness with nothing but her wits and a bottle of wine. Ip had planned to visit a dam near the base of the Victorian Alps in Bright when she took a wrong turn. When she tried to backtrack, her car became stuck in the mud.
With zero cell service, a few pieces of candy she had in her car (suckers, to be exact), and a bottle of wine she was supposed to give as a gift to her mother, things looked grim. Ip doesn’t regularly drink alcohol, but with zero water and little sustenance to keep her going, she opened the bottle.
Ip’s family and loved ones called the police when she didn’t check in with them after arriving in Bright. A search and rescue group scoured the surrounding area for days until Ip’s car was discovered still stuck at the end of a dirt road.
See the moment Air Wing located a woman, who was missing for five days in dense bushland.
Yesterday afternoon, Air Wing were conducting a sweep of the hilly terrain when they spotted Lillian’s car at the end of a dirt road in the Mitta Mitta bushland.
— Victoria Police (@VictoriaPolice) May 6, 2023
Wodonga Police Station Sergeant Martin Torpey said in a statement about the rescue and recovery, “The only liquid Lillian, who doesn’t drink, had with her was a bottle of wine she had brought as a gift for her mother, so that got her through. She used great common sense to stay with her car and not wander off into the bushland, which assisted in police being able to find her.”
The news of her safe return made us curious about how alcohol could play a factor in survival. While it turns out Ip made a smart decision by sipping from the bottle, some of us might’ve assumed it would dehydrate and do more harm than good.
Laura Zerra, primitive survival expert, 5-time Naked and Afraid participant, and host of Decivilized knows a great deal about the topic, as she’s grilled her urologist brother-in-law for her own wilderness excursions.
“It’s a diuretic, so in the short term of five days, it would most likely deplete you more than it would give back to you,” Zerra says. “That being said, your mental mindset is so important. If it’s going to make you feel like you’re doing something and make your mental state better, that’s potentially a bonus.”
She adds that this doesn’t mean she encourages those who are lost or stranded to chug wine. Ip, for example, was taking slow sips over a period of time.
If you wind up in the strange case Ip was in, Zerra suggests pouring alcohol into an open container and exposing it to the sun and air.
“You want to try to evaporate that alcohol as much as you can so you’re left with a lower concentration,” she says. “You can do so fairly quickly, though it would take a lot of time to make it totally evaporate, but this can help make it more drinkable.”
When we ask if the same rules apply to different types of alcohol, Zerra says the higher the alcohol percentage, the harder it is to rationalize drinking it. A bottle of vodka, for instance, she wouldn’t recommend. A light beer? That might be worth it.
Zerra actually made alcohol during her time on Naked and Afraid, when she was stranded on a beach in the Philippines. Using coconut water, sugar cane, and the yeast of the sugar cane peel, she brewed up what she calls “jungle hooch.”
“When you’re out for 60 days, calories become an issue,” Zerra says. “Alcohol has a lot of calories, and in that situation, we had a lot of water to go with it. It was for calories, not for hydration.”
At the end of the day, we’re thrilled that Ip made smart decisions, not the least of which was buying a bottle of wine for her mom.
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