A while ago I fell over a video on the net, about a man who managed to boil water.
Said like that there's nothing to panic about, but it was the container itself that took all my attention.
It was a bowl, made of birch bark.
True, birch bark bowls are as old as the day aliens came to earth to drop the first humanoids. But using these to heat water - those bowls, not the aliens - sounded at least quite paradoxal.
Birch bark is yet one of the best firestarters out there, right? It still is that stuff that burns even when it's almost wet, right?
I din't believe that video. It was like washing white shirts with black soap, for example. Ridiculous.
But too late it was, my curiosity was reveiled and so I hàd to test this before I was going to make a fool out of myself in a potential survival situation...
Step 1: Once You've Got Some Birch Bark
The main ingredient in this amazing experiment is birch bark, obviously.
The best season to extract this is in spring or early summer. Later in the season it will be more difficult to peel it off the trunk and you'll have more 'pieces' than 'sheets'.
To get this birch bark you need to find a birch with a diameter of at least one hand - the smaller the birch, the smaller the bowl. This instructable is full of logic, in fact.
Knots are not what you want, so leave the rough bark at the bottom of the tree for what it is and climb as high as necessary to find this smooth silver knotless barkzone that makes these trees visible from very very far - unless there are other trees growing between you and them. Watch out for bears, also.
Carve a nice vertical cut in the bark and two horizontal - one at the top of the vertical and one at the bottom.
Start to peel off one side of the cut with the tip of your knife, and once you've got the whole cut done you can just peel off the whole zone with your hands. No knife needed, but be careful for knots.
Roll the pieces of bark together and put them in cold water - mountain stream or bath tub, whatever.
No, the tree won't die after your intervention - unless you've been so idiot to carve a 20mm deep groove to extract that 2mm thick bark sheet. The tree will be not more damaged than it would be after you cut off a branch, for example.
Step 2: You Can Make a Nice Bowl
Making a birch bark bowl is just great fun. Cut a square out of the bark sheet, ply the corners together and keep them in place with self made willow twig clamps.
Use wet hemp cord - one of those have-to's in your survival kit - for the clamps, and keep your creation soaking wet.
Step 3: Then You Need a Small Roaring Fire
To make this experiment a winner, you need to clamp your lovely birch bark bowl between four freshly cut twigs that you smashed with a lot of love in the ground. That said, a hammer or heavy piece of wood can be more helpful.
Fill the bowl with water and ignite that professionaly set up teepee fire.
Step 4: And Some Eggs
If you just want to make coffee: do nothing.
If you just want to make tea: do nothing.
If you want to make soup: add potatoes & vegetables.
If you want to make stew: just like soup, but with beer instead of water and some meat.
If you want to make boiled eggs: get some eggs & add them to the water.
Like I said, this instructable is so full of logic.
Keep watching out for bears.
Step 5: And Also a Little Bit of Patience & Good Luck
Once the eggs are added, you just have to wait. Really.
After a few minutes the flames will start to eat your bowl.
Don't panic - I'm a pro, you know - since the fire will miraculously stop just above the waterline.
Instead of chasing miracles, it's better to get those flames exactly UNDER the bowl. Much better & less risky, I discovered.
A few minutes later bubbles will form and the water will start to boil.
Add carefully a few sips of water to compensate the loss and let the whole thing go until it all collapses - like I did - or get those eggs out the bowl just before. Or just leave the bowl from the fire, like any normal person would do.
In theory, those eggs should be boiled.
Let them cool a bit, and crack the shell.
When I removed the shell, the interior was white - which I considered as a good sign.
I took a bite in the white, and then the yolk poured warm & smooth in my mouth and gave me that satisfying feeling that Das Experiment was not so impossible as it seemed.
What the man with no fear had done hàd to be true.
Next time you're on a survival trip: no more excuses for not offering a romantic breakfast to your partner. You've got the coffee, you've got the eggs.
Next instructable: SURVIVAL CROISSANTS!
Step 6: Pro-tips
- try to get the largest sheet you can find
- make the bowl as good as you can - the better it's made, the more liquid it'll be able to store
- make that fire less violent, but more precise - build a wind-shield, if necessary
- small eggs are better than big ones - there comes that logic again
- keep watching out for bears, anyway