ALIVE: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
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ALIVE: The Story of the Andes Survivors

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This is the account of our most recent Donner Party when the 16 survivors of a chartered plane crash in the Andes -- with an original manifest of 45 including a Uruguayan rugby team -- could only survive on the dead bodies of their former seatmates. It received wide coverage in the press at the time; it also had the doubtful benefit of Clay Blair's tabloid-tinged Survive! -- a 1973 paperback. Read tells their story simply, in their words or his -- without any of the quality of his work as a novelist which in this case would have been supererogatory. The plane obviously could not clear the mountains -- which were too high as well as prohibitive in terms of the searches undertaken (an obligatory ten days according to an international convention). The survivors at first organized some sort of procedure (food rations, lavatory areas) before conditions -- avalanche- gangrene- filth- diarrhea -- went from worse to impossible. Medical student Roberto Canessa, volatile and often ill-tempered, introduced the idea that only by cannibalism could they survive; bodies were retrieved from the snow and dismembered, although often there was no fire over which to cook them. They spent the nights talking about home- foods- families; one after another slipped away (""Be careful not to step on Numa."" ""But Numa's dead.""). Finally the strongest of them became expeditionaries -- walking out, attempting to find an escape route. The most heroic proved to be the formerly gawky, timid Parrado and finally Parrado and Canessa crossed a mountain and went down into a valley to meet a peasant and enable the salvage of the others. . . . A crushing, necessarily extortionate, unthinkable and yet heroic experience with the grip of a crampon; expect attention, expect an audience.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1974
ISBN: 0060778660
Publisher: Lippincott