I’m constantly reading books about survival, preparedness, disaster, etc. to keep my mind honed in on the important factors involved in dealing with and ultimately surviving a variety of circumstances.
At first I didn’t really want to read this book, I knew the story, part of it is repulsive and grotesque. I felt this was not “true survival” that perhaps they had cheated to survive. But on the high recommendation of some fellow survival folks I determined to see it through.
I found the book irresistible, it was difficult to put down, I would start reading late when tired actually, and still read till 2am. The key to this book is that it is written not by a writer researching, but by a survivor himself, Nando Parrado, who describes to us his innermost thoughts and feelings, taking us into his thinking process. even revealing to us the demons that fought to discourage him.
First here let me deal with the unseemly, the cannibalism that occurred. While even after reading the book and discovering the dire circumstances, I am yet still repulsed by the thought, and in my own mind, feel to just let death take me rather than to partake. Certainly all would have died without eating of this flesh, they had to go 72 days, about 60 of those would have been devoid of any food. As it was they were all on the very precipice, many could taste death it was so close, these formerly muscular conditioned athletes were now but skin and bones.
Without the disgusting cannibalism there would be no story, 18 people would not have later married and had their own families. They only managed to do the deed by imagining that those whose bodies were now food, had passed away, that the body was dead and would soon decompose anyway, and that perhaps those who died would have wanted it this way, giving of their body much like an organ donor, to sustain the lives of their friends.
This plane load of rugby players from Uruguay for the most part had never seen snow before, and now here they were trapped in a high mountain valley 12000 feet up, in late winter. There was no way out by walking down, only by climbing up and steeply at that. Nando and one other finally were able to make it over the top and out to get rescue after climbing a peak of 17000 feet with no ropes, no climbing boots, no coats really, no gloves, then a difficult trek of some 45 miles. It was a desperate situation, no one was coming to look for them, they were assumed to all be dead somewhere in the vast Andes. Nando and Roberto had to make it or all would be lost.
For survival they had broken glass for cutting, tin sheets on which to place snow to melt in the sun, the fuselage of the plane for shelter (although the windows were broken out and the back was open), they fashioned blankets the best they could from the seat covers, they made snowshoes from the seats. They tried to improve their clothing by stuffing whatever they could find into it for added insulation. They really had little to work with, no experience, and bitter cold at night. They were seldom able to really sleep due to the extreme shivering from the penetrating cold that invaded the fuselage each night.
In the end Nando’s drive to survive was the closeness and love he had for his father, he could not bear to leave his father so alone, having already lost his wife and daughter in the crash. As is so often the case in nearly all the stories I have read, love seems always able to conquer the unconquerable, to make impossibility flee and to vanquish death that would seem so inevitable.
This book is absolutely worth reading, truly there was a Miracle in the Andes, each survivor had their own mental and physical battle to win. Every survivor had to somehow scrape up the will to live, they each many times came to deaths door and managed to turn away. Some survived due to God, for some it was the desire to see a loved one. They all had to find that one irresistible reason to live on another hour, another day, another week. They had little hope of survival, but by resolving upon a reason to live, they were able to do anything that needed to be done to make it.
Until next time – Perry Peacock, have a great day!!