“What Crane Learned was gathered in increments, plucked like stray threads from crises and moments of doubt. His transformation bound him, in ways he probably couldn’t yet imagine, to some of the greatest feats of resolve. In the words of one famous polar odds beater, it just comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.”
Over the last few years I’ve been obsessed with tales of survival (maybe since 3rd grade when we had to read Hatchet by Brian Paulson). Endurance, Into Thin Air, Unbreakable, River of Doubt have all been engrossing reads that completely captured my imagination. Something about the amount of pain and suffering someone can overcome is utterly fascinating to me…
Is that weird? Am I a masochist? I promise I don’t want to be in a situation where I am forced to overcome massive amounts of misery (except for ultras)….but just knowing that I would be capable is important to me.
The latest book to add to that list is 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy.
This is the true story of Leon Crane, the lone survivor of the harsh Alaskan wilderness when his B-24 bomber crash in the winter during World War II. (Part of the non-survival story was about Alaska’s role during WWII which was fairly compelling)
Leon was a city boy from Philadelphia who knew next to nothing about wilderness before this catastrophe. Throughout the book he is forced to step up to the insurmountable challenges and through his experiences he slowly gains the competence he needs to survive.
I love the idea of small lessons and skills adding up over time. It reminds me of one of my favorite non-fiction books The Slight Edge. Crane doesn’t just instantly become a badass mountain man, rather he uses lessons from his failures to give him the education needed to survive (the failure cycle is something I’m constantly preaching).
The other interesting idea in the book is “LUCK”. I don’t want to spoil anything but Crane gets unbelievably lucky repeatedly throughout the book. Don’t get me wrong he still goes through hell and misery, but then he stumbles on a few commodities that are essential to his ultimate survival. It reveals how circumstance and complete coincidence can affect our lives.
Crane never wallows in self pity, always keeps his ultimate goal in mind (get back to base and let his parents know he’s alive), breaks down his goal into smaller achievable tasks, gives gratitude when he stumbles onto good fortune, uses his talents as a critical thinker to solve problems, and endures.
Overall it was a good book to add to my ever-growing list of “inspiring survival books that are true stories about people overcoming impossible odds”, a very specific genre of books.
Keep reading and enjoy your Monday!