This book is fascinating - not just because of the accounts of stranded disaster victims from ship wrecks and plane crashes, (which on their own would be just sensationalist), but the comparisons between those groups that survived successfully and those that did not make for interesting reading. Sometimes adversity brings out the best in people, at other times it does the opposite.
Using true stories from history as case studies (such as the Batavia shipwreck 1629, the raft of the Medusa 1816, the Uruguayan flight 571 crash in the Andes 1972, and the Robber Cave experiment 1954) the authors investigate the physical and psychological changes that affect these people, and also compare them to imagined scenarios such as William Goldings 'Lord of the Flies'.
They look how the initial fear, and how those involved handle it in the first minutes and hours are crucial to what happen further on. They investigate panic in it's various forms, (freeze, flee, faint or fight) and how the actions of those in charge can have a huge impact on the rest of the survivors. Not surprisingly those disasters with the worst outcomes usually have the captain and crew looking out for themselves and leaving the rest to fend for themselves No women and children first for them, (actually they have the worst survival rate!). A most interesting comparison is made between two shipwrecks on Auckland island, (the Grafton and the Invercauld) which both happened in 1864. One was a complete and utter disaster with only three survivors out of the several that made it to shore. In the other all of the men survived due to compassion, good leadership and planning.
Factors such as alcohol, starvation, suicide, fear of the dark and of course cannibalism are all looked at. All in all a well researched and compelling read This book makes you wonder what you might do if similarly tested.
Title: No Mercy: true stories of disaster, survival and brutality Author: Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff Publisher: Melbourne, Vic. : The Text Publishing Company Year: 2013 ISBN: 9781922147240 (pbk.)