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 Survival against the odds

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Caro
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PostSubject: Survival against the odds   Sun 23 Jun 2013, 06:11

The folksinger at our dinner the other evening sang about an event on the very isolated (in those days) West Coast of New Zealand where a sealing party was dropped off on a island called Open Bay to be picked up again with their seals in 4 months. (In the thread about music and history folk-singers could be mentioned as people who often sing of historical events.)The ship leaving them presumably went down – it was never seen again -, and the people left behind soon had no food beyond the seals and a fern root. They managed to make some sort of raft and eventually got themselves to the mainland, but it was still four years before a ship called in and rescued them back to Melbourne. All ten of them survived.
I have a sentimental liking for stories of lonely or sole survivors, so that appealed to me. Other shipwreck stories from here involve often the subantarctic islands. The General Grant with its treasure went down and the survivors made it to the Auckland Islands and most of them were eventually rescued. They were down to their last match when they managed to get some branches alight and never let the fire go out after that. The sort of people wrecked on these islands were, of course, very hardy types in the first place, and capable of surviving in harsh conditions.
Other stories not involving shipwrecks include the Retreat from Kabul in the first Anglo-Afghan War (which I gather was generally a bit of a disaster) must surely epitomise this best, when just one Englishman out of the 16,000 people that set off, Assistant Surgeon William Brydon reached Jalalabad with a very few Sepoys. How does just one person manage to survive when everyone else has fallen by the wayside? Wikipedia tells me a second European man, a Greek merchant, did make it to Jalalabad but died a day later. William Brydon took part in other battles but died at home in Scotland. His brother-in-law won a VC so soldiering must have been a family occupation.
It was to be the last Maori raid in the South Island and indeed to date the last war action here.
And one from New Zealand which isn’t well known even here brought a Maori war tribe down the coast of the South Island to attack a southern one. In 1837 Te Puoho brought down from the top of the South Island around 50 warriors and some women to mount a surprise attack on Ngai Tahu. Prisoners were taken on the way and some escaped to raise an alarm. Hone Tuhawaiki ("Bloody Jack") came to the rescue and Te Puoho was beheaded. The others surrendered as slaves. With the exception of Te Puoho’s brother-in-law, Ngawhakawa, who set off on a 1300-km journey that is still somewhat daunting by car these days. He had to ford dangerous rivers, collect his own food, evade any enemies on the lookout, and walk the length of the island on the side known for its cold wet conditions. Vengeance for Te Puoho’s death was considered but didn’t amount to much, and intermarriage between the victors and the attackers lessened tensions.
But there must be lots more of these sort of events, and I am hoping you can come up with some.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Sun 23 Jun 2013, 09:03

One story which encapsulates the will to survive is that of Poon Lim a steward on the merchant ship SS Benlomond which was sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-boat in 1942. The ship exploded and sank within minutes and Lim with only a life-jacket managed to scramble onto a wooden life-raft. No other crew member survived the sinking. 

On the raft Lim found 70 pints of water, some biscuits and an electric torch. When the water and biscuits ran out Lim had to catch rainwater using his life-jacket. He also fashioned a hook from wire in the torch to catch fish and had to take rope (from part the raft itself) to use as a fishing line. He later became bolder still and took a nail from the raft to make a bigger hook to catch larger fish such as sharks. He found moisture in the blood and liver of the sharks and this kept him alive.

Finally after more than 4 months at sea the raft washed ashore on the coast of northern Brazil. Emaciated and unable to walk Lim was rescued by local fishermen and taken to hospital in the state capital Belem and the care of the British consulate there.

After the war Lim settled in New York. When interviewed about his ordeal he was told that his 133 days alone on the raft was a historical record. Lim said "I hope no-one will ever have to break that record."
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Mon 24 Jun 2013, 06:27

Somehow the thought of being on your own in these situations makes it that much worse than if you had just one companion.  People have to be resourceful to survive.  How do you catch a shark with a nail, for instance?  I suppose they were small ones. 

This has reminded me of the Cospatrick which went on fire coming out to NZ with over 500 people, mostly immigrants.  Some people made it to lifeboats but only five were rescued and two of those died before they got back to Britain.  They drank blood and ate livers too, but of their dead companions.   But I think only one of the three (who were all crew) could be considered to have a successful life - I think one became alcoholic and one suffered badly from depression.  After a fair bit of googling I have finally found the following: Lewis, (quartermaster)who later lost a leg in an accident at sea, seems to have coped best. He died in his village in 1894. Cotter (18-year-old seaman) became something of a disreputable figure, and a drunk. He featured in a music hall show and briefly enjoyed celebrity status, such was the Victorian fascination with shipwreck survivors - and cannibalism. He lived until 1941, aged 84. McDonald (the second mate) was the saddest of the three. He turned dark and threatening, before his mental state collapsed. He died in the Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum a little more than 10 years after being rescued.

That article that is part of was in the Auckland Herald in 2008 and very oddly mentions me!  It ends with this:
South Otago history enthusiast Carolyn Deverson points out that if we can remember the Titanic so well, even though it had no New Zealand links, undoubtedly the Cospatrick deserves a place in our history. "It's a story worth preserving in the country's psyche," she says.  There you are - history enthusiast!   I've forgotten why exactly, but I had written an article about the Cospatrick once before someone wrote a book about it and I might have sent it on to the author or something. 

 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10382697

I want to go to Shipton when we are next in England to visit the plaque there to the people on the Cospatrick.  Seventeen of their village had set off - none of them made it.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Mon 24 Jun 2013, 07:56

There was a more recent happening in the Pacific in 2010, 3 boys who survived drifting 1300 km in 50 days, I believe they were just intending to play around in their boat but drifted away. A memorial service was held for them.
http://supercom.org/boys-survive-50-days-adrift-in-pacific-ocean/432258/
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Mon 24 Jun 2013, 10:02

What I find interesting about the Cospatrick is that 5 men were in a lifeboat which could carry about 30 and had resorted quite rapidly to cannibalism by the time they were picked up just 10 days after their ship sinking (I'm getting these details from wiki) ..... while Vizzer sites one man on a raft who survived 133 days!
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Mon 24 Jun 2013, 11:37

Aron Ralston was hiking in Utah in April 2003, when he got his right arm trapped by a boulder. After five days and with no rescue in sight, Ralston self amputated his arm, tied the wound off and walked for help. 
The story was filmed by Danny Boyle as 127 Hours.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 07:33

@Meles meles wrote:
What I find interesting about the Cospatrick is that 5 men were in a lifeboat which could carry about 30 and had resorted quite rapidly to cannibalism by the time they were picked up just 10 days after their ship sinking (I'm getting these details from wiki) ..... while Vizzer sites one man on a raft who survived 133 days!

I agree MM. It appears from the narrative data in these cases of being cast adrift long-term that one stands a much better chance, regardless of the state of provisions when setting out, if one is alone rather than in a group. The cannibalism option is not open to one for a start and it also appears that this and the lack of group politics force the individual into levels of resourcefulness and inventive survival techniques that are seemingly inhibited when they are subject to committee ratification first. I wonder also if the descent into despair and defeatism is not also accelerated rather than offset by the group dynamic.

One notable exception to this apparently destructive group dynamic is William Bligh and his sixteen colleagues when they traversed the South Pacific in a launch - a distance of over over 3,000 miles done in 47 days. They did put in on the way occasionally, but always in very hostile places where collection of extra provisions was difficult to say the least. Their voyage to East Timor however has to rank as one of the great survival stories of its nature - in fact I have never understood how Bligh ended up the "baddy" in the subsequent story and the obviously mentally deranged Christian the "goody".
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 09:59

It was a case of something I learnt very early in life - get in first with your story.  Be early at school before the others kids have decided who to pick on for the day.  Tell Dad my version of the argument with Gran, so he doesn't get her biased, highly inaccurate view first.  And get Fletcher's view out speedily with plenty of publicity and a good deal of self-pity to an audience that will ensure people hear about it.

I don't know how people can self-mutilate themselves in order to survive - the mere thought of giving myself the slightest cut is beyond me.  How do you go about cutting off your own arm - you couldn't even (supposing you had some alcohol) get yourself drunk as an anaesthetic.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 10:22

Bligh lived long enough to hear the romanticised version for himself, and was successful enough (and indeed respected enough) to have countered it. Yet he didn't seem to, or at least we have no record of him doing so. But then besides Bligh there were other successful survivors (two of whom were mutineers who secured acquittals at the courts marshal that followed) and who also pursued naval careers achieving high rank. They also seemed to acquiesce when it came to correcting the pamphleteers' version of the story. Personally I think it was a case of bad advice from the navy itself, which appears to have bound all the participants to "media silence" and thought it was protecting its own image by doing so. The fact that several of the ringleaders escaped detection for so many years, their actual fate not being determined until some decades after the event, probably prolonged this bad PR strategy, which didn't help.

Yet however good the wrong version may have been there must have been many, like me, who instantly suspected it from the moment they first heard it. And why it is that no counter, from whatever source, was ever produced to highlight the intelligence and bravery of Bligh, is really what I don't understand. It was the age when such heroes were being produced and marketed in the interest of empire and Bligh (the real one) would have been a perfect candidate.

By the way Fletcher's "view" is actually not at all discernible in the early versions of the event. And also it is important to remember that the first version of the story to reach public ears was from the returning Bligh party and their own courts marshal. If I was by nature a sceptic I'd be inclined to think that Bligh's enemies were never on the Bounty at all, but in the jealousy-ridden and petty-minded ranks of his own peers in the establishment.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 13:36

One group who did resort to cannibalism,simply because there was no alternative, were the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in October 1972. The survivors themselves only made it when two of their number hiked over the mountains to get help.

http://www.viven.com.uy/571/eng/

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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 14:00

On balance, I think I might prefer cannibalism to the sea water enemas that the the Robertson family resorted to when they were adrift for 38 days in 1971. Reading about that bit at the time is the only reason I remembered them.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 15:14

@Triceratops wrote:
One group who did resort to cannibalism,simply because there was no alternative, were the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in October 1972. The survivors themselves only made it when two of their number hiked over the mountains to get help.

They were rugby players, Trike. Second nature ...
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Tue 25 Jun 2013, 22:15

And one of those two was on the point of death after the crash itself which somehow made that story more romantic.  I read Alive for a book club book years ago and nearly decided not to bother, thinking it wouldn't be my thing, but I loved it.  And now I see our library has the book written by the young man, Nandos or some such name, I think.  I must read this. 

Teenage rugby players, not a lot of time to make it second nature.  (I remember once seeing the ALL Blacks en masse at an airport and I was just stunned at how huge they all were.  Tana Umaga was gigantic and even what I took to be slight Andrew Merhtens (it's taken me four attempts to get his name looking right, trying the 'h' in different places) had legs like strainer posts.) 

Cannibalism of people already dead never seems to me a very difficult decision to make, if it's necessary.  And the weather is cold, but any flyblown meat wouldn't be very appetising.  Though when you are dying of starvations any food will do.
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Fri 06 May 2016, 14:07

The Icelandic film The Deep, based on the true story of a trawlerman who spent 6 hours in freezing water;



The Deep
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PostSubject: Re: Survival against the odds   Fri 30 Sep 2016, 12:12

If survival can mean survival into old age, especially against all the odds, then William Hisely has to receive an honourable mention. Hisely, Wiltshire born and a soldier by profession since he was 13, fought at Edgehill during the Civil War when he was 22, followed Royalist colours into the Williamite War in Ireland, and then Marlborough into the War of the Spanish Succession - a seemingly innocuous set of achievements until one remembers that in Ireland he was already a sprightly 68 year old, and at the latter a venerable 89! During that war he was a member of the Royal Scots regiment which took part in the infamous Battle of Malplaquet, the bloodiest battle of the 18th century.

When Willie hit his 90s he reckoned it was at last high time to retire on his special pension (2 crowns a week donated by Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and prime minister Horace Walpole between them). As a pensioner he in fact became one of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea's first boarders and it was there he celebrated his hundredth birthday. At 103 however he was back out on the streets again, having just married and therefore violated his terms of tenancy. The marriage though was short-lived (his wife of forty years his junior died of old age) and Willie was permitted back into Chelsea again, where he eventually passed away in 1733 at the age of 112.

Two years before this old soldier finally gave up the ghost he sat for a portrait by George Alsop, and even with artistic licence allowed for, still looked at 110 very much a geezer one wouldn't wish to encounter on any battle field.

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