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Deep Survival

February 20, 2010

I just finished “reading” a new book.  I discovered books on CD!  So, actually I listened to a new book this week on my way to and from work.  I’m completely addicted and will be visiting the library this afternoon to pick up the next book on CD.

The book was Deep Survival who lives, who dies and why by Laurence Gonzales.  In the past I’ve read a few survival stories.  I’ve read, Adrift and Into The Wild.  Both books detailed the experience of a man in extreme circumstances.  One lived and one died.  I had never thought about the two stories in comparison because one I read in high school and had all but forgotten about and the other within the last two years or so.  Gonzales’ book compares not just these two stories but many stories in which the central figures find themselves in a situation of survival or death.  The first part of the book discusses functions of the brain in depth and it was over my head.  I think I picked up the general ideas but, I’m sure that if I’d paid more attention in Biology or continued on to Anatomy I would have gotten more out of it.    The main idea seemed to be that people are governed by a small amount of rational control and a large amount of emotion.  The people who live through their ordeals are able to use both in just the right ways. 

The second part of the book detailed out several stories of survival and pointed out how the survivors made it out alive and why the ones who didn’t died.  He used the experience of Steven Callahan, who wrote the book Adrift, to define the perfect survivor.  Steve was alone at sea in a 6 man raft for 76 days.  Steven was able to survive because he used his rational brain to observe his environment and come up with a plan for his survival.  Observing and planning played a big part in not only Steven’s survival but also many others who found themselves is similar situations.  Another key seemed to be taking responsibility for ones own situation and survival.  Many of the people who’ve died did so because they gave up or just waited without action for rescue.  Gonzales mentioned that rule followers do not do as well in survival situations because they aren’t willing or able to let go of the plan when things go wrong.  Survivors are constantly having to adjust to changing environments and circumstances.

I had a difficult time with this book because the author was overly poetic for my taste.  I think if I had been actually reading it I wouldn’t have gotten all the way through it.  However, I’m really glad I did finish it because I found so many inspirations in it.  The spirit of seeing beauty in the world and your situation no matter how extreme and, the ability of people to never give up no matter how discouraging the circumstances were two themes that I was specifically moved by.

There is a show that comes on Animal Planet called I Shouldn’t Be Alive.  The show interviews people who have lived through an extreme ordeal.  I had never seen it before I started reading Deep Survival but, now when I watch it I think I get so much more from their stories than the viewer who has not read Deep Survival. 

Gonzales does mentioned that he has found that may times someone who has all the perfect attributes of a survivor can be overtaken by circumstances and die.  Also people with no survival skills can get lucky and live.  But, I was really drawn to the stories of the survivors especially when they would make a decision to take a risk and either live or “die well”.

So much to think about…..what would I do in an extreme environment?  Would I be a survivor?

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One comment

  1. I have watched a few of the “Survivor” series done with Stroud as the survivor. It is fascinating how he can go without food for such a long period of time. Most intresting is the fact that his body is on the verge of breaking down for lack of proper nutrition or water. His ability to undergo the ordeal in cold or hot climates is amazing. I watch it whenever I get the chance.



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