Boiling Sea Water Doesn’t Make It Drinkable


Ocean with boat

Have you ever wondered why people stranded on a desert island or lost at sea can die from dehydration surrounded by all that water?  It’s because there is way too much salt in seawater.

Boiling seawater does not make it safe to drink because it does not remove the salt. On Average, seawater holds 3.5% salt, too much for the body to process. As seawater boils, it evaporates, leaving the salt behind. You’re making the seawater saltier by boiling it.

Sea or Ocean water is not a substitute for drinking freshwater.

4 Harmful Effects of Drinking Seawater

  1. Human kidneys can’t process seawater, so salt builds up in the body, causing dehydration.
  2. Ocean Water is very efficient at dehydrating the body
  3. Excessive urination will occur for a net loss of bodily fluid.  
  4. Exo-Osmosis will occur, which means your cells will give up all of their fresh water in an attempt to create equilibrium in the body.
  5. Continue drinking sea water and you will die  

Death By Drinking Sea Water

Hydrating the body with seawater leads to a painful death by turning your body from a plump juicy grape into a dried up raisin.  You die from dehydration by drinking sea water.

Symptoms of Death By Sea Water

  1. Vomiting
  2. Dizziness
  3. Crenulation, the cells in  your body begin to collapse 
  4. Blood thickens
  5. Blood flow is reduced to all parts of your body 
  6. You go crazy because the sodium messes with your brain’s chemistry and neurons
  7. Organs begin to fail 
  8. Lapse into a coma 
  9. You take your last breath

Interesting Facts About Drinking Sea Water

  • We eat salt as part of our healthy diet, but we drink liquids that dilute that salt. This keeps the amount of salt in our bodies at a healthy level. Cells depend on the right amount of salt to maintain our body’s chemical balance.
  • According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “Freshwater contains less than 1000 PPM of salt, Ocean water contains 35000 PPM.”

Turn Sea Water Into Drinking Water With Distillation

If you thought you could boil water to remove salt, you might be thinking of distillation, a form of desalination. Desalination removes salt from ocean water. Boiling is part of the, “still,” distillation process, but there is more to it.

What Does It Mean To Distill Seawater For Drinking?

The process of distilling seawater is accomplished by boiling it over a fire or evaporating it with the heat of the sun. The evaporated water is then turned back into a liquid and captured in a container. Distillation removes salt and just about everything else, producing pure drinking water.

Is Distilled Ocean Water Good For Long-term Survival?

I’ve never actually distilled seawater, and from what I can tell, it’s not as easy as it seems. The set-up is pretty simple, but getting enough water from a rigged survival system is difficult.

If you are on a desert island or marooned somewhere without a water source, distilled ocean water is excellent for long-term survival. There are some things you should know about it, though.

  • Distilling removes salt and minerals from water; it also removes flavor but in a survival situation who cares.
  • Distilled water may leach minerals from your body, but this is controversial and what’s losing a little calcium if your dying from dehydration.
  • Storing distilled water can be an issue because it may leach minerals and chemicals from whatever container you save it in

In an emergency, there are two ways you can distill seawater to remove the salt. Neither method is efficient, so it takes a long time to get enough distilled water to meet your needs.

Solar and Boiling Seawater Distillation Methods

Solar Still/Solar Evaporator

A solar still uses the power of the sun to condense water and capture it, creating a purified water source. The solar still captures moisture from the vegetation and seawater in the bottom of the hole.

This method takes a long time. If you have enough plastic, make as many of these as you can. Hopefully, you have other water sources. In 12 hours you will be lucky to get 1/2 cup to 1 cup of freshwater, from one solar still.

8 Steps To Build a Solar Still

  1. Dig a hole 3 feet across and 24 inches deep
  2. Dig an additional hole in the center of the first hole large enough to hold the container
  3. Place fresh vegetation in the bottom of the whole, pick fresh leaves, the bigger, the better.
  4. Dump seawater directly on the vegetation
  5. Place your drinking water container in the center of the vegetation
  6. Place a layer of plastic-sheet over the hole
  7. Place a stone or a little bit of sand in the center of the plastic, so the center or apex of the plastic sheet will drip into your drinking container.
  8. To secure the plastic in pace and to prevent loss of moisture, place sand, soil, or rocks along the edge of the plastic.
  9. Before Removing the plastic, carefully tap the plastic to get water into the cup.

According to ARN12086, Army Survival Manual, you will need at least 3 solar stills for each person.

Girl and a beach fire

Boil Still: Boiled Seawater Distiller

You can make a distillation unit, or boiling pot from quality materials if you plan on using it regularly. If you don’t have a distiller in an emergency situation you can make a still from found materials. Understanding the concept of the still is what’s important. See the videos at the end of this article.

How Does A Boil Still Work?

  • A boiler-distiller uses a fire-proof container, like a pot, with a lid.
  • Attached to the lid is a sealed tube or pipe that protrudes through the cover.
  • The still is filled with seawater.
  • The lid is placed on the pan
  • Place the still over a campfire to boil seawater
  • The tube or pipe secured to the top captures evaporated water as it rises and funnels it into a collection container.
  • The water that drips into the collection container is what you can drink.
  • You do not want to drink the initial water that comes out of the condensation tube. Do not drink until water runs clear.

The following YouTube video from NightHawkInLight is an excellent how-to on making a compact desalination kit. If you know the concept, you can make one from found materials. Granted, it may not be as efficient, but it may work.

This Video is from Brave Wilderness Primitive: Making a water purifier with clay.

Useful Links:

U.S. Army Manual ARN12086, Chapter 3 and 4 Discuss different methods of procuring water in a survival situation: Downloadable PDF Click Here

Video summary of If I Boil Seawater Can I Drink It?

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