Part 1 of my 4 part interview with Phoxx deals primarily with the daily life on his expedition: where he went, what he wore, what he ate, and the kind of gear he used.
Phoxx began his trip in Port Hardy and paddled 30 miles west as far as Cape Sutil. His goal was to make it to Cape Scott on the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. Because of rough sea conditions west of Cape Sutil he decided to hike the remaining 30 miles from Cape Sutil to Cape Scott along the North Coast Trail.
Only about half of my interview with Phoxx ended up in the final cut. In one of the deleted scenes we talked in more detail about the risk acquiring paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) from eating foraged mussels and clams. (Surprisingly, he did not find any oysters.)
“PSP was in the back of my head the whole time," he said. "I’m going to wake up and I not going to be able to move. And the next thing I know the paralytic toxin attacks is my heart. And I’m going to die slowly.”
If Phoxx had had a radio he would have called in every night to see if the shellfish area he was in was safe but instead he relied on simple field tests. One way to detect PSP is to rub the raw flesh of the animal on your lips and mouth and wait for a few minutes to see if you feel any tingling or numbness. Kiliii Fish described a technique where he would take a small bite and hold it in his mouth for 5 minutes while avoiding swallowing any saliva. If you start feeling any numbness or tingling then you can assume the organism is contaminated.
Phoxx says that he always used the rub test, but thought it was highly subjective and nonspecific. His mind tended to wander and he sometimes imagined that his lips were tingling when they really weren’t. As far as he knows, there is no scientific evidence to validate the test. On day 6 or 7 he experienced burning in his throat after eating a batch of mussels, but didn’t get sick. Sometimes he just ignored the tingling sensations because he simply had to eat something: “When you are hungry you are hungry! Sometimes you just have to eat.”
Even if the shellfish are contaminated, Phoxx said if you eat only one it is not likely to kill you. You could eat one and wait 12 hours and if you don’t get sick you could assume it is safe to eat the rest. I might add that I know of even better test: if you happen to be traveling with a friend, you could do what I did while paddling in the Broken Group and let your friend eat a bunch of oysters first. If he’s still alive the next day, then you know they are safe to eat.
Phoxx did very little fishing and caught only one fish, a salmon, which lasted 3-4 days after drying. Foraging on the beach at low tide was simply easier. It was also more risky to be on the water without a lifejacket or wetsuit. When it was windy and raining he would be risking hypothermia.
Phoxx early on abandoned the idea of going entirely primitive, but the “modern gear” he acquired was basically trash he found along the way: a plastic bottle for water, some string, and a tarp. For hiking along the North Coast trail he fashioned a backpack, which was basically his gear wrapped up in his blanket, wrapped up in the plastic tarp, and tied together with salvaged cord. These few items added a little more comfort to the trip. Although he doesn't mention it in the interview, he also said that the move away from an exercise in primitive living also came about from the realization that he was facing a problem of simple survival.
The handful of other modern items he carried included a DSLR camera with 14 batteries in a drybag and SPOT satellite messenger. Apparently there were several days where the messages he attempted to send to indicate his location were not received.