Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mountain Climbers vs. Bering Sea Fishermen

as i have talked about many times before, i love the show "deadliest catch". it captures stories of men that no fiction can replicate. this season has started off with real life drama effecting the fleet: capt. phil can't go out for the season, capt. keith has health issues, capt. sig is getting older, and there is open competition for a spot on the time bandit which is causing some rifts to appear in the crew. on top of all that, last night's episode featured the story of the fishing boat katmai. the katmai sank in a storm and only 4 out of the 11 crew on board managed to survive.

the story of the survivors on the katmai was a harrowing one. the boat started taking on water in the middle of the night. recognizing the danger they were in, the captain ordered his crew into survival suits. all except one managed to get theirs on before the boat went under. soon after entering the water other troubles surfaced amidst 40ft. seas and howling winds: the crew was separated into two lifeboats, 6 in one and 4 in the other (no one from the 4 man boat survived); one crew member had a hole in the boot of his survival suit; one crew member had to remove his suit to fasten the canopy of the life raft; the raft was flipped by a wave causing the half-dressed crewman and the one with the hole on his boot to be tossed far from the raft and both perished. the remaining 4 held on for dear life and managed to survive the night and were rescued by the coast guard the next day.

survival stories like this always fascinate me (see this post on previous stories of heroism on deadliest catch). while watching last night's episode i started to think about survival stories of the fisherman and how they compared to stories of mountain climbers who find themselves caught in survival situations. the keys to survival in both require the same skills: clear thinking, quick action, reliance on teamwork, and the will to survive. both take place under the most adverse conditions on earth. the fishermen have to stay alive fighting the ocean and the weather, the climbers fight the mountain, altitude, and weather. neither situation is one i want to find myself in, but i am still fascinated by these stories because they represent the true epitome of the human spirit and pit man against his most ancient enemy: nature.

i think this is one of the reasons i like going on mountain climbing adventures. even though i have never been in extreme conditions like a lot of the climbers i have read about on mountains like K2 and everest, but there is still an element of danger and imminent death while on the mountain. you can never turn your back on the mountain, no matter how easy the hill is, because once you disrespect mother nature, that is when she gets you. it is that thrill of living on the edge that i enjoy so much, i think. this is not to say i have a death wish or anything or that the climbs i have been on were extremely life threatenting, but there is always that possibility and even at extreme altitudes, it is something you always have to be aware of. mountain climbing is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. i cannot tell you how many times on my way up rainier i wanted to quit because i thought i couldn't make it...but i could and i did. i had the mental toughness to push through to the top.

that bravery and courage is what the members of the katmai exhibited, as well as the members of the rest of the fleet. these guys are tough as nails and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. they all know the risks of the profession, just like mountain climbers do when they embark on a trek. i think this is one of the reasons i like that show so much and watch it with such rapt attention.

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