Many students feel that they spend their entire lives in the offices of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), a labyrinthine dungeon beneath the Wentworth building. But if the apocalypse struck and leaving the SRC was suddenly impossible, how long could a single occupant survive, unsupported and alone, within the SRC’s 367 square metres?
Renowned nutrition expert Professor Luigi Fontana tells me that “many physiological and metabolic factors are at play, so it is impossible to give a sound answer.” An unsound answer may therefore have to suffice.
Survival is a mental test as much as a physical one, but there are certain necessities that cannot be foregone. In most survival scenarios, water is the most pressing concern. Fortunately, the SRC is well provisioned with a kitchen zip tap and bathroom sinks from which ample and continuous water supplies (both hot and cold) can be drawn.
Shelter will also not prove an issue given the protection from the elements afforded by the SRC’s underground location and the front foyer offering additional insulation. Environmentally, poor air quality from mould spores on interior walls and ceilings is the largest health hazard, but is not likely to prove lethal in the medium-term.
Given the lack of natural light and the psychological implications of prolonged solitary confinement, some degree of health decline remains inevitable. A strict walking regimen up and down the SRC’s single corridor is advisable to combat the effects of sedentarism, but care must be taken to avoid overexertion that will unnecessarily raise your daily energy requirements.
It is food which will lead to your inevitable demise. A comprehensive stocktake by Honi Soit of the various food items stored in the SRC offices yielded 210 items across 31 product types with a combined weight of 105kg and total energy yield of 1,650,123 kilojoules (kJ). The vast majority of this nutritional value is to be found in 78 boxes of Dorset Cereals berry granola and 80 boxes of Barilla orecchiette pasta.
Other products include four kilograms of flour, one kilogram of butter (of dubious quality), six cans of Harvest braised steak & onion, four cans of Larina chicken luncheon meat, three large jars of Capriccio passata, small amounts of canned tuna, creamed corn and snacks, and a frozen Coles carrot cake.
The average adult daily energy intake of 8700kJ suggests that the collective food content of the SRC could sustain 190 days of normal consumption for an individual. However, given the seriousness of your predicament, rationing food to the bare minimum would prove wise. A daily intake of 5000kJ/day is widely seen as the minimum to prevent sustained weight loss, potentially stretching the lifespan of your stockpile out to 330 days.
A daily food regimen is likely to start out as follows:
Breakfast: berry granola (dry or mixed with fresh water); minimal vegemite on microwaved damper from a flour and water mixture
Lunch: kettle-cooked orecchiette with passata, tuna and Larina chicken luncheon meat
Dinner: kettle-cooked orecchiette with passata and canned Harvest braised steak & onion
However, as time goes by and condiment supplies dwindle, your diet will inevitably settle into a mentally draining routine of plain water-logged berry granola, plain kettle-cooked orecchiette and plain rudimentary microwaved damper, day in and day out.
Saving frozen treats such as the Coles carrot cake, vegetable cannelloni and single tub of Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake for desperate moments at this stage will provide a much needed psychological boost and break from your fluorescently-lit and increasingly hungry days.
However, these are by no means healthy balanced meals. Certain vitamins and nutrients will be sorely lacking from your daily intake. Professor Fontana puts it simply: “Malnutrition is likely on such a diet.”
Scurvy, the scourge of the Age of Sail, will prove your bane. The dearth of fresh fruit and vegetables within the SRC will contribute to severe vitamin C deficiencies. Dried fruit in your daily berry granola will likely impart small vitamin quantities sufficient to delay scurvy’s onset beyond the usual three-month timeframe but insufficient to prevent it entirely. The eventual exhaustion of your granola supply will only hasten the process. Sores will open and not heal, weakness will overtake your feeble body, teeth will loosen and gums will bleed.
Death is inevitable.
With judicious rationing, strict discipline and a strong constitution, your SRC-bound lifespan could certainly last for months, but your prospects of seeing far beyond a one-year anniversary are slim.