Tag Archives | adventure

Survive | Nate Hardcastle, ed.

The cover of Hardcastle's SurviveOne of humanity’s deepest taboos is cannibalism. This is what makes the 1993 movie Alive so disturbingly compelling. Alive is the true story of a plane crash where forty-five Uruguayan rugby players are forced to survive off the bodies of the dead.

In Survive: Stories of Castaways and Cannibals, Nate Hardcastle has collected sixteen stories of people in survival situations, both fictional and non-fictional. Cannibalism occurs in twelve of the sixteen stories! What is a human being capable of doing when stretched to the edge of survival? Each account is gripping—some are heartbreaking.

Survive is packed full of top-notch writing, from Patrick O’Brian to Mark Twain to Jack London. The stories take you from icy antarctic sleeping bags to the deserts of the American West. Each account will make you question, “What would I do?”

—Nate Hardcastle, ed., Survive: Stories of Castaways and Cannibals (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2001).

Survive! | Peter DeLeo

Compelling and irritating are the two best words I can think of to describe Survive. Fortunately, compelling beat irritating and I finished the book. Let me explain.

Survive is DeLeo’s true story about surviving a plane crash followed by 12 weeks of travel in the High Sierras. DeLeo came close to death a number of nights as he fought hypothermia with sheer discipline. As you read his account, you can feel the breathtaking urgency of his situation. By the end of the book I both respected and admired DeLeo’s fighting spirit.

Now for irritating. At times this book is just downright condescending. He explains flight jargon and acronyms in a way that makes the reader feel foolish for not knowing the various trivia. I also can’t believe DeLeo was as logical and patient as the narrative suggests. I almost put the book away when I read for the third time how he religiously took inventory of his person and checked his rectum for blood.

In the end, I’m glad I read it. It’s a gripping—if slightly annoying—story of human gumption in the face of near-impossible odds.

Canoeing With The Cree | Eric Sevareid

Imagine letting your 17 and 19 year old son and friend, with no experience, paddle a canoe 2,250 miles through two countries to Hudson Bay. That’s exactly what Sevareid chronicles.

The writing is simple and direct. Dialogue is interspersed with narration in just the right proportion to illuminate the team dynamics.

Don’t read this as an instructional guide! Here’s the passage that made me cringe the most:

The stern man, who must assume the greatest responsibility, would rise to his feet as we drifted swiftly toward the leaping white water. He would choose the best route among the rocks, the best line of kicking riffles to follow. He would give his directions and then, paddling with all our might, to get up more speed than the current itself, we would drive the Sans Souci [their canoe] . . . straight at the dashing foam. . . . Your speed must be greater than that of the current, or you will have no leverage to twist and throw the canoe from one angle to another (157-8, 159).

I’ve run rapids under full load—it pays to drop in slower than the current for more control. It’s a wonder these boys made it the whole way! Even thought their inexperience shows through it doesn’t detract from the narrative. In fact, their trial-by-fire reminded me of some of the mistakes I’ve made on earlier trips. I applaud these boys for their effort.

The climax of the book is a juxtaposition of the most difficult and isolated part of the river with the most depressed mental state of two river-weary travelers. Sevareid narrated their “great test” with an endearing honesty.

This is a great book to read while you’re waiting for your own next trip.

Running The Amazon | Joe Kane

This is more than a paddling story—it’s travel/adventure writing at its finest. The book chronicles the first team to paddle the entire length of the Amazon River, from its sickness-inducing heights in the mountains of Peru to the Atlantic Ocean.

There are a number of stories intertwined between the covers [I have to add: my cover was glued on upside-down which led my wife to wonder on occasion whether I was just pretending to read!]:

  1. The first-to-do-it story: the fact that no one had done this before brings an element of excitement to the text.
  2. The survival story: the technical paddling in the mountains will raise the pulse of anyone who has shot rapids before.
  3. The team-work (or lack thereof) story: Kane nails the tension and shifting allegiances between the team members. This puts a human face on the story which transcends paddling literature.
  4. The morphing nature of the river story: following this river from extreme remoteness to sprawling world-class city is fascinating. It was gripping to hear how different people received the team throughout the trip and how the various people were able to exist on the shifting river.
  5. The author’s story: Kane went from outsider-reporter to full-fledged paddler during the six months of this trip. That was quite a metamorphosis!

You don’t need to be a paddler to read this—paddling is just one aspect of this multi-faceted work of art.

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