I’m a junkie of nonfiction books about surviving misadventures–at sea, in the air, on the ground, you name it.
Being as how it’s winter and I’m kind of in semi-hybernation, I’ve read a few of these books the past week, and would like to recommend a few to you.
Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West (Ethan Rarick).
In 1846, A wagon train of families decided to move from Missouri to California, taking the advice of an ill-informed Lansford Hastings as to the best route: a shortcut which he himself had never travelled. This delayed the journey significantly, and by the time the wagon train reached the sierras it was too late to continue. They hunkered down for the winter, without sufficient food and barely any shelter, subsisting on their own dead to survive. Of the initial 87 travellers, only 47 survived (women fairing much better than men), not counting some members of various rescue parties who themselves perished in the attempt to bring the travellers to safety.
Raising the Dead: A True Story of Death and Survival ( Phillip Finch).
In 2004, David Shaw became one of only 11 people in the world who dived below a depth of 240 metres, at Bushman’s Hole in Africa. It was during that dive that he discovered the body of 20-year old Deon Dreyer, who had died 10 years earlier and whose body was too mired in muck for Shaw to retrieve. Shaw went back a year later with a team of divers, including his teacher and friend Don Shirley, determined to bring Dreyer up to the surface. Shirley almost lost his life in the effort, and Shaw–wearing a camera for a documentary about the rescue– records his own death.
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII (Mitchell Zuckoff).
In May 1945, 24 American serviceman and WACS board a transport plane for a bit of sight-seeing over the mountains of Dutch New Guinea and crash, with only three people surviving in a land inhabited by cannibals. Since the locale is only reachable for parachute–or plane crash, the army scrambles to figure out how to get the survivors out.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.