Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

Nov 29, 2005
Just thought I'd mention this book, Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales, which I got under the Christmas tree, and have been reading. To anyone with a few hours' time, who's interested in survival, I would highly recommend this book.

I'd never read it until now, chiefly because my attention had been more on the technical "how-to-find-food-in-the-desert" kinds of survival books. This book, by contrast, focuses on how survival situations arise, and the psychological (and neurochemical) ways in which people react to them. It's quite readable--compelling, I'll even say. It articulates, better than I'd previously seen, distinctions between helpful bravery and foolhardiness--and also provides several very-thought-provoking detailed accounts of near-fatal and fatal survival situations.
Read it a year or so ago. Well worth the read. Like RoTJD says its not a how to book. Very useful for SAR people to understand how people think, and don't think in a rescue emergency.

Actually worth reading more than once.

This book has been discussed many times on various forums.
It is the only book that discusses the mental state as a
cause of the survival situation. Let me know if others do.

Some detractors have said that the information could be
more condensed ( I agree, to some extent) and they even
say it could be summarized in one page, or less ( I disagree ) .

A book must make you imagine situations and integrate
the ideas, and reframe your memories; this takes
time for you to think, and it takes space for the author to
lead you through this process.

IMO, even reading, and agreeing with the author is not enough.
One must always guard against cowboy excursions, for example.
"Knowing is not enough", applies to many things.

Let me give a specific example of where 1)knowing is not enough
and 2)where your mind/body acts counter to your intentions.
When a student (martial arts) starts learning a new move,
the student must stop doing his old move, at least temporarily.
After some practice, the student can do the move adequately
several times in succession.
Is the new move really part of his game?
I can ask him to use the new rather than the old move, as we
spar slowly, invariably he will revert to the old move. We all do
these things. And when adrenaline is pumping, it gets worse.

You can probably think of times where your mind did not act
logically or perform the way you intended.
knowing is not enough and 2)where your mind/body acts counter to your intentions.

Yes and Yes. This is true. If you want to know how true this is you only need to look at survival statistics of lost people based on age. The age group most likely to survive being lost is.......

Ages 1 to 3. Why? Because they don't build mental maps and try to get themselves out. They don't understand the concept of lost. If they are tired they find a place to go to sleep. If they get cold they hunker down and try to get warm.

A lot of adults including hunters and hiker know the correct things to do and they still die many times because they push to hard to get out, getting themselves more lost and/or exhuasted.

Jon Young, of the Wilderness Awareness School used to say,.. "It's not always the wilderness that kills people, it's often their need to follow their schedule/agenda".