Two things. The first thing, I would like feedback on my new Doug’s Darkworld image in the title bar above. It’s another Terragen generated image. (Copyright © 2006, Doug Stych, all rights reserved.) If technology like this keeps advancing, soon we won’t need the real world at all. Reality is kind of inconvenient anyhow, and it’s filled with animals with an attitude for one thing. And don’t even get me started on such things as mosquitoes and snow, how anyone survives the Midwest or Canada is a mystery to me. In Berkeley we have neither, in fact weather pretty much doesn’t even exist here. Ho hum, another warm sunny day, but not to sunny. Perfect for sipping a cup of coffee and writing my blog on my balcony.
In any event, a sad weather related story in the news just caught my eye. A fellow and his family got trapped on a mountain road in the snow. After nine days waiting for rescue, he struck out into the wilderness to see if he could find help. While he should have stayed by the car, nonetheless after nine days I can understand why he would have been consumed by a desire to seek help for his wife and kids. Sadly he died in the attempt, though by all accounts he made superhuman efforts to get help and travelled an amazing distance. One can only be in awe of the human spirit when it is inspired to help friends and family.
Despite my somewhat cynical and dark view of history and humanity, I do find great hope in the actions of individuals. Superhuman efforts always lead me to tears, so I thought I’d share a few other examples of humans who went the distance so to speak. These are specifically stories about people who travelled great distances despite insurmountable odds. Some of these have happy endings, some don’t.
The first is the mostly unsung Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1914 he led an expedition to within 85 miles of Antarctica before their ship was trapped and crushed by ice. In a series of incredible journeys Shackleton inspired his men to stay alive. They pulled boats across the ice for months, and made one of the great open boat navigations in history, sailing hundreds of miles to get to a tiny whaling station on a small island. Shackleton’s courage and leadership saved the lives of everyone in his crew. Recently he is getting a bit more attention, there has been a movie made about his adventures. By all accounts he was a remarkable man.
Then there’s the little known story of Captain Bligh, of mutiny on the Bounty fame. He was not the cruel tyrant history has painted him to be, and the reasons for the mutiny are still unclear. Though the ship’s crew had spent six months laying (and getting laid) on the beaches of Tahiti. This was definitely an inspiration for some of the mutineers, living in a tropical paradise beat being in the British Navy any day, then and now. In any event, Captain Bligh and his loyal crew were put into the ship’s boat and set adrift. Captain Bligh navigated them over six thousand kilometres in an open boat to get to the nearest European settlement in Indonesia. Even by today’s standards this was quite a feat, and at the time was nothing less than astonishing. For their part, the mutineers sailed on to Pitcairn Island, where they lived in tropical bliss the rest of their lives. Which wasn’t very long, within a few years all but one mutineer had murdered each other fighting over the women. Men, sigh.
And then there’s the sad saga of the Lady Be Good. The Lady Be Good was a B-24 bomber that disappeared during world war two after a bombing raid on Italy from North Africa. It wasn’t discovered until 1959, 16 years after it had vanished. Turns out the plane had missed the airfield on the return journey, and had gotten lost and been ditched over the Libyan dessert when its fuel ran out. All but one crewman survived the bailout, dessert survival experts predicted the men could not have walked any more than 35 miles or so considering it was summer when they crashed, and they had no water. To everyone’s amazement, the crew had walked more than 85 miles before they were overcome by the over 50C heat (130F.) Tragically, if they had had good maps and known where to go, they could have made it to safety.
God rest their souls, each and every one, those who survived their trek and those who didn’t. If men could put half the energy and resources demonstrated by the heroic actions above into making the world a better place, Earth would be a paradise. Instead, stealing from each other and blowing each other up seem to be the primary male avocation on the planet. We’ve got to work on our priorities people.