Sunday, September 18, 2005

Book Review: Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls

Full Title: Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls: True stories of castaways and other survivors

Author: Edward E. Leslie

While I waited at MEPS, I took this book that I had borrowed from a friend. It proved to be an excellent read while awaiting the next physical or exam (a process that can easily last 2 hours). This book contained absolutely fascinating stories for survival (well, at least most of them survived) and the events that led to their maroon/escape.

One aspect I found the most interesting was the analysis of what the differance between those who survive and those who don't. It is odd how some are able to barely hang on for 3-6 months or even years...yet others literally give up and die in 2 days. It may be as simple as the human will to live (though, I'm sure some divine intervention could help):

...a man loses his instinct of self-preservation. After two or three or four days of tramping, all you think about is sleep. I would long for it; but then I would say to myself, "If my wife still believes I am alive, she must believe that I am on my feet. The boys all think I am on my feet. They have faith in me. And I am a skunk if I don't go on."

These are the words of Henri Gullaumet, an early Air Mail pilot who crashed in a snowstorm in the Andes Mountains (and later the subject of an IMAX movie). This shows one part of what I see as the "winning" survival attitude. Those who survived rarely sit and wonder what they will do. They complete the task at hand, whether it be finding food, building shelter, or walking out of the mountains, it is simply a task that starts with a single step.

In my personal life, I have to say this book was enlightening. With the chance to go to Officer Candidate School, I plan on using this thinking to make it through the tough physical and mental games that I would be put through. Just concentrate on what task needs to be done...and do it. These people survived in far worse conditions...and survived. I can, too.

I would recommend this book to any history buff. It's a fascinating read that gives some adjustment to what consitutes a "bad day"...and how to survive one.


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