Re: afraid of risk

james nolan (
Sat, 21 Aug 1999 11:34:39 -0600

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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Perhaps it can be summed up by comparing a few passages from "Endurance,
Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing p221 and "The Seventh
Grade" by Rhienhold Messner pp157-160.
"The truth was that he felt rather out of his element. He had proved himself
on land. He had demonstrated there beyond all doubt his ability to pit his
matchless tenacity against the elements-and win. But the sea is a different
sort of enemy. Unlike the land, where courage and the simple will to endure
can often see a man through, the struggle against the sea is an act of
physical combat, and there is no escape. It is a battle against a tireless
enemy in which man never actually wins; the most he can hope for is not to
be defeated.
It gave Shackleton a feeling of uneasiness. He now faced an enemy so
formidable that his own strength was nothing in comparison, and he did not
enjoy being in a position where boldness and determination count for almost
nothing, and which victory is only measured in survival."
"Based upon my experience in the Andes, I foresaw the extreme difficulties,
the hazards and the physical exhaustion in the "death zone" and I organized
my training accordingly...After a few months I really began to enjoy my
training and I often did long periods of running. My morning cold showers
had become a habit and even now I cannot do without them. I endeavoured to
slow my heart beats and increase the circulation in my hands and
pulse rate had gone down to 42 a minute...Six months later, Gunther and I
stood on the summit of Nanga Parbat. Owing to unforseen circumstances, we
were forced to descend by the easier West Face. We suceeded but Gunther was
carried away by an avalanche at the foot. I searched for him for a long time
and then dragged myself with frozen feet down the Diamer Valley for days on
end...For three days I was without drink and five days without food, I spent
three nights on the ice without shelter, finally I crawled down the valley
as I could no longer stand on my feet. Climbers all over the world said it
was a miracle that I had survived the ordeal but I do not believe in

I would say that if you could train to swim (with your PFD) to shore, and
somehow endure in cool or cold water for days, then mountaineering and
sailing are equally as dangerous. Otherwise I still believe sailing is
inherently more dangerous.

Jim Nolan

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Combs <>
To: james nolan <>;
Cc: West Wight Potter - Post <>
Date: Friday, August 20, 1999 10:39 PM
Subject: Re: afraid of risk

>>I don't mean to knock sailing or sailors. Mountaineers
>> can usually run and hide under a rock, sailors are stuck in their boats.
>> think it is the stuck part that makes it dangerous.
>In any undertaking, I see three factors contributing to risk:
> - the undertaker (we can sure kill ourselves by doing things
> thoughtlessly or carelessly)
> - the implacable workings of fate (running afoul of this has been
> referred to as being 'diddled by the dangling dong of destiny')
> - the equipment (what we do it with: our undertaking tools, their
> quality and quantity, not to include their unplanned failure
> -- that's factor 2)
>I shan't go through the whole analysis, but I think you can see that
>if one plans and equips to withstand any single-contingency equipment
>failure and proceeds with care and thought, that driving an Interstate
>is far more dangerous than either sailing _or_ mountaineering. A
>non-limited-access highway is probably even worse.
>I can more easily predict, and survive or hide from, the things that
>might unexpectedly imperil me on the mountain or the sea, than I can
>the accident caused by the drunk or cretin in the next lane, or the
>sleepy commuter in the oncoming line of traffic.
>Personally, I feel much safer in/on the water than in either of the
>other (or many additional) alternative pursuits. I sail with PFDs but
>have never climbed with a parachute.
>Bill Combs
>WWP 19 #439 (Aug 1987)
>"Ursa Minor"
>Fort Walton Beach FL