How to Survive Being Trapped in a Sunken Boat


( – The threat of drowning aside, finding oneself inside a capsized boat beneath the waves would be absolutely terrifying: utter darkness, claustrophobia, freezing water, and the knowledge that each breath taken is one breath closer to running out of air.

Thankfully, as the following video explains, this isn’t a situation without hope of survival.

While this scenario may be rare, it has happened before, and people have survived the ordeal. Here are a few tips on how to survive:

    • Find air – The most critical aspect of surviving this situation is finding a pocket of air within the capsized boat. The average person can only hold their breath for roughly 30 seconds, so time is of the essence. Hold it for too long, and there is a possibility of blacking out — and drowning.
    • Get out of the water If the water is cold, it’s going to suck the heat from anyone floating in it. Hypothermia is every bit as dangerous in the water as it is in the snow. Find something to float on if possible.
    • Splash the water – Splashing the water increases the surface area of the water, allowing it to absorb carbon monoxide (CO2). Without doing this, the CO2 will build up in the bloodstream and become toxic.
    • Don’t panic – Yes, this will be easier said than done, but it is extremely important. Panic leads to hyperventilation, making a person use up more oxygen and expel additional CO2. When the amount of air is limited, it needs to last as long as possible.
    • Wait to be rescued – If the boat sinks in deep water, the chances of being able to swim out and all the way to the surface are relatively low. Stay alive by following the previously mentioned tips and wait for rescue divers to arrive.

Even when the rescue divers arrive, the ordeal isn’t over. It’s likely that some time will be spent in a hyperbaric chamber to prevent decompression sickness. While this can take a few days, it is far better than suffering decompression sickness’s potentially life-threatening effects.

With a bit of knowledge and determination, being trapped in a sunken boat isn’t a death sentence. Speaking of knowledge that could be vital to survival in this situation, check out our article on how to hold your breath the right way.

~ Here’s to Your Survival!

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