Saturday, April 17, 2004

Survival stories

It's really too bad I don't have the time. The article in Thursday's newspaper, Survival stories produce shivers reviewed two books that look like really interesting reading.

Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World, by David Roberts:
... The story begins in 1743, when four Russian walrus hunters are stranded on remote and barren Edge Island, one of the cluster of icy islands known as Svalbard (the best known of which is Spitsbergen), lying just 600 miles or so below the North Pole.

An 11-month-long winter was setting in, and their small boat had been blown off course and threatened by pack ice. Going ashore to seek shelter, the four found a crude wood hut built by earlier travelers. They went to tell their shipmates, only to find that the boat was gone -- vanished, without a trace. ...
SIX YEARS! And then to add insult to injury:
...Then, only by chance, a passing boat spotted the survivors as they were facing a seventh winter in isolation. The captain took them aboard and back to their native northern Russia, but charged them for their passage. ...

Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, by Jennifer Niven:
... On a parallel course, Jennifer Niven's "Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic" follows five adventurers in 1921 to another remote land, barren Wrangell Island, 200 miles northeast of Siberia, and surely as stark a place as Edge Island.

Blackjack, an Eskimo hired for $50 a month to sew and cook for the expedition, was the only survivor. Three of the other four were lost after setting off across pack ice to seek help. The fourth, too weakened by scurvy to make that trip, died on the island.

Along with bravado and fear, Niven's story has a dark, mean underside. It's the bitter truth that this expedition should never have taken place. It was the brainchild of an erstwhile Arctic adventurer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a native Canadian who thought that Wrangell Island, while ostensibly held by Russia, should be part of his homeland. When Ottawa turned him down he decided to stake a claim for Britain. ...
Now, that's a testament to womanhood!

After reading the article, I thought if any or all the survivors found religion after the experience, I wouldn't dare to question their faith. If I were one of them, I probably would have found religion too.

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