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MythBusters Episode 179: Duct Tape Island

Premier Date: March 25, 2012

In this episode Adam and Jamie were marooned on a tropical island with only a pallet of duct tape. To survive, they had to find out if…

It is possible to build a distress signal with duct tape.


Adam and Jamie built a giant SOS on the beach. It was weighed down with rocks at the corners and was visible from altitudes up to 4 miles (6.4 km). Jamie noted that the tape’s gray color was less than ideal for attracting attention.

It is possible to make clothing with duct tape.


While building the signal, the heat and exertion began to take a toll on Adam, so he made a sun hat. Both men later made sandals from branches and duct tape to protect their feet as they moved around the island.

It is possible to find fresh water with duct tape.


Adam found a pond, but Jamie warned against drinking the water because it was stagnant. After a night of sleeping on emergency mats made by sticking tape strands directly to the ground, they searched for water separately the next day. Jamie built a solar still on the beach, using the plastic overwrap from the original pallet in addition to tape, but collected only a few ounces of water after several hours. Adam followed areas of lush vegetation and eventually found a freshwater spring; he then made a container to carry several liters of water back to Jamie.

It is possible to find food with duct tape.


Jamie made spears from tree limbs and tape and successfully caught fish with them, while Adam hunted wild chickens in the forest. He tried to use a snare without success, then put together a tape net and camouflaged it, planning to reel it off the ground when a chicken ran over it. The first chicken slipped out of the net, but Adam was able to catch and hold the next one. Adam later noted that he and Jamie did not cook the chicken, but instead ate food provided by the crew in its place.

It is possible to build a fire with duct tape.


Adam built a bamboo bow drill using tape as the string. After several attempts and broken strings, he successfully got a fire going.

It is possible to build a shelter with duct tape.


Adam strung up tape hammocks in a clearing and added overhead canopies and floor mats. He also put together chairs, a table, and a chess set using pieces of wood.

It is possible to stay focused with duct tape.


Jamie took some time to experiment with building a surfboard from tape pontoons and teaching himself to use it. Although his own inexperience and a series of leaks ultimately caused the project to fail, he noted that it did succeed in keeping his mind sharp and occupied. The chess set in the shelter also helped both men in this respect.

It is possible to escape an island with duct tape.


Adam and Jamie set out to build a seaworthy craft that could hold them and several days’ worth of supplies. They designed a canoe with an outrigger for stability, using a bamboo frame and a tape hull, and put together an impromptu worktable to keep dirt out of the tape as they worked. After six hours of construction, they launched the canoe and steered it into the oncoming breakers with little trouble. Seven hours later, Adam sighted land and they put ashore — on the island they had just left.

There was also a spiritual successor to this episode called Duct Tape Canyon.