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True tales of deprivation

Surviving the Extremes

Kenneth Kamler

St. Martin’s Press $24.95

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The expedition doctor on the ill-fated Everest ascent chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” Kenneth Kamler, has written an absorbing account combining science and exploration as humans confront environmental extremes, from the vast reaches of space to the depths of the sea.

Covering six diverse regions -- jungle, desert, high seas, underwater, high altitude and outer space -- Kamler explains how the human body reacts when deprived of food, air, water and moderate temperatures and offers the stories of people who survived -- or didn’t -- and why. The accounts include detailed analyses of the Apollo 13 flight, the Donner Party and his firsthand description of the ascent on Everest that took several lives in 1996.

As thorough as Kamler’s explanation of the body’s reaction to environmental stress is, it’s hard to account for the survival of Beck Weathers, the climber who lapsed into a near frozen state on Everest during the “Into Thin Air” disaster yet somehow found the will to survive.

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Michael Koehn


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