Fan (Non-fiction) topic: Tonya Smith – The Endurance of a human body in survival mode.
Survival. It’s built into each one of us. Our bodies will do what ever it takes to keep alive when in danger or damaged. The blood coagulates, the immune system fights off infection, and in some cases, something, super human.
Combined with a mental mindset bent on surviving no matter the situation, the impossible can be accomplished.
We have heard the stories: a hiker lost in the woods survives for days before being rescued, a rock climber gets trapped by a boulder and has to cut off his own arm to escape to find rescuers (127 hours), and a plane crash in the Andes where a Ruby team had to survive eating their friends who died in the crash before being rescued months later.
Incredible feats by individuals who refused to give up. They answered the question the crisis threw at them: “What will you do to survive?”
“Whatever it takes!”
“We’re not dead yet!”
“We will not go quietly into that good night!”
“We will fight! We will survive! Because we are alive!”
One of my favorite story’s of survival, was about a man named Louis Zamperini. In 1936, Louis gave a strong showing at the Olympics. Although he finished 8th in the 5000 meter, he did the last lap in 56 seconds, a record that held for 15 years.
He dreamed of going for gold in the next Olympics, but WWII intervened. Louis joined the Army Air Corps and while out searching for a missing pilot whose plane had gone down, their own B-24 suffered mechanical failure and they crashed. Only Louis and two others survived the crash.
They managed to get onto a life raft and spent the next 47 days on it. They had next to nothing in their survival kit and very little fresh water. One of the other survivors, panicked ate all of the chocolate bars from the survival kit on their first night, dashing Louis’s plan to ration them.
Mac (the tail gunner) who had eaten all of the chocolate began screaming “We’re all gonna die!” when they ran out of food and water. Louis had to hit him so he would get a hold of himself. Around 33 days in, Mac died due to starvation and dehydration.
During the 47 days at sea, they had to fight off sharks constantly harassing the boat. Eventually, though, they caught one and ate it. They also managed to catch an Albatross and used it for bait to catch fish. For water, they built some rain catches out of tarps and any containers they had.
At one point they thought they were rescued when the spotted a plane, however, it was Japanese and actually, fired at them a few times before flying away.
At the end of the 47 days, they were “rescued” by a Japanese ship. Louis and Phil were taken to separate POW camps. Louis was particularly tormented by a Japanese officer nicknamed “The Bird”, due to his Olympian fame. One particular torment, the Bird had Louis hold a beam over his head and told the guard to hit him with his rifle if he dropped it. Louis didn’t drop it and the Bird realizing it was a moment of defiance rather than punishment, knocked Louis unconscious. He remained a POW the rest of the war, but survived.
Louis swore if God got him out alive he would dedicate his life to him and made good on his promise. In 1998, when he carried the Olympic Torch in Japan for the start of the winter games, he reached out to his former tormentors and forgave them.
If you want to know more about Louis Zamperini check out my sources cited below or watch the movie Unbroken.
The human body is a biological marvel that does everything it can to survive, but even with the height of evolution on our side, it is not always enough. The mindset of survival is just as important. During the time at sea, Mac the tail gunner was convinced they were going to die and did himself. Louis and Phil did not give up no matter how bad the situation and survived.
Forever your friend,