Time has not diminished the drama of the tale of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains. Of the forty five people on the plane at the time of the crash, sixteen came down from the mountain about seventy days later with a saga of survival not easily forgotten.
Theirs is a journey born of tragedy and human endurance. The author unfolds a tale that is gripping in the telling, as enthralling as it is almost unbelievable. It is investigative reporting at its best, because it does not fail to convey the human drama and pathos behind the story of this remarkable struggle for survival high up in the Andes mountains. Masterfully written, it is a well balanced narrative that takes great pains to ground the experience of the survivors in the context out of which it arose.
The plane had crashed in the Andes mountains on Argentinian territory. It was an exercise in terror for those on the plane, as it barreled down the mountain, before finally coming to rest in a valley of snow high up in the Andes. Of the forty five persons on board, thirty two had initially survived the crash. Some, however, had sustained serious injuries. Time would not be their friend. Moreover, with little warm clothing (keep in mind that October is springtime in South America), the survivors were exposed to the extreme cold of the night air, high up in the Andes mountains. Though spring, this still meant temperatures well below freezing. Damp, cold, and hungry, amid the anguished cries of the injured, thus began the first of many such nights.
By their tenth day in the Andes, the limited food supplies, which they had rationed with all the care of a miser, had virtually run out. Starving and ravenously hungry, they voiced what they all knew to be true, but had not dared to voice before. They must eat, or they would die. The only thing left for them to eat, however, was abhorrent and deeply repugnant to them. Digging deep into their conservative, religious souls, they found a way to justify actions that would have them transcend a new reality. Their fallen comrades would now provide the means of their sustenance. All eventually succumbed to this only means of survival.
This, while one of the most dramatic parts of their story, is just that, a part. Their survival entailed much more. They had to endure other deprivations. They had to survive the elements. They had to overcome a profound despair over being seemingly forgotten by the outside world. Ultimately, only sixteen were able to do so. How they did so will fascinate all readers of adventure literature. The means that they took to let the world know that they were still alive will astound even the most jaded of readers. It is an account of human endurance that is thought provoking and compelling, a quest to reconcile physical needs with the spiritual. It is, above all, a riveting testament to life.