July 31st, 2007
Not much work got done today. I read the first chunk of some school reading, but was called away by the siren song of my whaling ship disaster book. I’m a huge sucker for disaster and survival stories – particularly tales of the early exploration of Antarctica. But this book that I read today was awesome. I have now decided that, though Antarctica is a terrible place to be, the middle of the Pacific Ocean without food or water is pretty terrible too. The castaways of the Essex spent three months floating around the ocean without sufficient water or food – there’s all kinds of extreme physical privation, desperation, suffering, and of course cannibalism in this story. While stores lasted, they were on a ration of half a pint of water a day and three ounces of hard tack for food! And of course it’s not exactly a story, but rather a history. This really happened.
These tales always leave me amazed at the fortitude of certain people. Survival seems to be linked at least in part to the maintenance of totally unreasonable hope in the face of astronomically bad odds – Were I ever to find myself in a survival scenario, I have no doubt I’d be among the first to die off for lack of hope. I give up hope of living if I get the flu, for god’s sake. Never mind being stranded thousands of miles from land in a little leaky boat with a ration of a cup of water a day to hold me.
Anyway, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am now inspired to actually read Moby-Dick which I have been threatening to do for years but have never gotten around to. We shall see!