Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

Deep Survival

If you go on adventure trips, you should read “Deep Survival”, by Laurence Gonzales. I finished it on my marathon subway rides yesterday. It’s partly a voyeuristic look into how people do or don’t survive when bad things happen. This part is pure storytelling and who doesn’t love a good story? At times, the outdoorsy jargon made it hard for me to follow what exactly was going on, but on the whole I was sucked in, turning pages to see what happened to our poor characters.

The other part is an analysis of why one person survives and another seemingly more equipped, more experienced person succumbs. There is, of course, no hard answer and luck is a huge component, but some common characteristics do emerge. Survivors tend to remain calm, come to terms with their likely mortality, yet continue to strive against it by adapting to their new situations as best as possible. On the other hand, “The Rambo types are the first to go.”

Parts of Deep Survival made me wonder if I should ever go hiking in the woods ever again. His description of seemingly innocent trips gone horribly bad can scare you. But (and the author makes this clear), this is NOT the point. Life is about enjoying beauty and constantly extending your abilities. It’s just critical to understand that nature is not a supervised playground and that there are always real dangers, no matter how simple the excursion. Knowing that fact, being properly outfitted and prepared, and most importantly, being aware of your surroundings and instincts will decrease your risk. And with risk managed properly, the reward-to-risk ratio of immersing yourself in nature easily beats out staying secure in your daily life, which is by no means risk-free either.

So check out Deep Survival if you like a good story and if you want to learn a little more about what gives you the best chances of surviving a bad event.