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Transcript of Alive!
By Ruth Hernandez
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors is written by Piers Paul Read. A crashed plane. A remote mountain. A few survivors. Filled with suspense, the passengers must do unimaginable things in order to survive the long 72 days.
The rescued members of the Fairchild F-227.
The Fairchild F-227 was occupied with five crewman and forty Uruguay passengers (fifteen from a rugby team), who were set for Chile for a set of rugby matches. While traveling to Chile, the plane hit a cloudbank and crashed into a mountain peak along the Argentine border on October 13, 1972. Some of the passengers were killed instantly. While some had superficial wounds, others had wounds that required immediate medical attention. Two of the men, Roberto Canessa and Gustavo Zerbino, were medical students and administered help to those that they could, but to little avail. The men and women were stranded in the mountains with inadequate clothing for sub-zero temperatures, little food, and no medical supplies. What food they did have (snacks and wine), was at once rationed but only lasted the remainder of the passengers a couple of days.
The First Night on the Mountain
The first night on the mountain was like a nightmare. Sleeping space was limited. Those that were hurt could not be moved, and throughout the night, the moaning of those in pain could be heard. The temperature had dropped below zero and sleeping was almost impossible due to the cold, lack of space, noise, and injuries.
In the days following the plane crash, some of the passengers died from lack of medical attention and food. The passengers were starving. For several days, some of the boys realized that if they were to survive they would have to eat the bodies of their dead companions. Appalled by the idea, the remaining twenty-seven passengers held a meeting and agreed that the bodies of their dead friends would be used for food. Those that could gather the strength to eat human flesh, ate, while some of the boys held back for a few days because of their moral conscience, but at last gave in due to extreme hunger and fatigue.
A couple of weeks later during the night, an avalanche covered the plane and the sleeping bodies. Eight died. Nineteen survivors were left.
About the Author
My Opinion of the Book
The Last Expedition
Throughout the time the boys were on the mountain, they selected the strongest and healthiest survivors to seek help. Six times they sent out expeditions, but the expeditionaries had failed due to the lack of strength and food and were forced to return to the plane. Finally on December 12, Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado set out on the final expedition to determine the life or death of themselves and their friends. For nine days, Canessa and Parrado blindly journeyed down the mountain toward what they thought was civilization. Finally, on the tenth day they reached civilization. They were saved! The fourteen remaining survivors in the plane were rescued the next day. For seventy-two days the boys were up on the mountain.
While the passengers of the Fairchild were dealing with the harsh conditions of the Andes, the families of the passengers had given up hope that they were alive. When word was spread that the Fairchild had been lost, a search and rescue party was sent out to look for the lost plane. For eight days, weather permitting, the SAR (Aerial Rescue Service) of Chile searched for the Fairchild. On the ninth day, the search was canceled due to negative results. Even though the SAR had discontinued the search, the families of those in the plane privately continued to search, but after negative results over and over they, too, finally called the search off. However, Carlos Paez Vilaro continued searching. Day after day until the end, Paez Vilaro had searched for the plane. Though he had difficulties securing planes and flying planes with faulty engines, Paez Vilaro continued to persevere.
Nearing seventy days, Paez Vilaro had begun to lose hope. While loading on to an airplane for the trip back to Uruguay, Paez Vilaro had a phone call stating two men claimed to be survivors from the Fairchild.
Piers Paul Read is an English writer, born in Beaconfield, Buckinghamshire. Read is a dramatist and a TV scriptwriter. Read is also a practicing Catholic. Because he was Catholic, Read was chosen by the sixteen survivors to write
. He was reluctant to write, but once chosen it was hard for him to refuse. Read was a good fit for this piece of work mainly because he was a Catholic. If the sixteen survivors were looking for someone who was able to portray Catholicism throughout the book, they picked the right author. Alive was Read's first nonfiction book. Read is best known for
, but some of the other books he has written include
The Professors Daughter, A Married Man,
A Season in the West.
Alive was more of an adventure/survival story than an informative historical nonfiction book. The author's writing style was direct and easy to follow. I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys a good survival story with hope and perseverance. One negative aspect of the book was the occasional foul language. I would not recommend Alive to a younger audience because of the language, cannibalism, and bloody details of the crash scene. Despite these elements, I enjoyed the book. One aspect that kept me captivated was the end result. What would happen next? Who was going to survive? I also enjoyed seeing the hope and perseverance portrayed through the boys and families.
A group of survivors huddling inside the plane.
The Uruguay rugby team.
The Fairchild (before)
Roy Harley and his mother reunited.
In the Fairchild: Nicolich with his arm around Harley.
The Theme of Alive
The most prevalent theme throughout the book was hope and perseverance. Throughout the seventy-two days on the mountain, hope and perseverance were easily seen in the Fairchild passengers. The passengers never gave up hope. They believed they were going to survive and persevered through the long, cold, and depressing days. Even through the death of their friends and family, the surviving passengers had hope. Hope and perseverance were also seen in Carlos Paez Vilaro. With hope and perseverance, Paez Vilaro continued the search for the lost plane for almost seventy days. Until the very end, he believed the boys were still alive. The Catholic faith was also another theme throughout the book. Catholicism was strongly portrayed in the passengers. While they were praying to Mary and the saints, some of the families of the passengers had also been praying.
Interesting Things I learned
Read was educated by Benedict monks while in college which influenced some of his early writing.
The weight loss of each of the survivors was significant. All of the boys lost between 35 and 50 pounds. Coche Inciarte lost 80 pounds.
On January 18, 1973 twenty-seven days after the boys were rescued, a few members of the Andinian Help Corps and a Chilean priest traveled back to the site of the crash and gathered all the accident victims bodies and buried them in a grave.
Each of the boys got a pack of twenty cigarettes to last them two days. Some of the boys would smoke them all the first day and would try to beg a few more from their fellow companions. Surprisingly there was no shortage of cigarettes.
I also learned that good nonfiction writing has a lot to do with the author who writes the book. It is also good for the author to have a personal connection with the incident and the people involved. Not all nonfiction books are boring and hard to read. Some nonfiction books are enjoyable and will capture your attention.
Before the crash
The grave on the mountain