The Andes Survivors
These were the first words of a note that Nando Parrado threw across the
river to his rescuers. He had hiked all the way down from the snow-capped
Andes peak named Tinguiririca, the site of a horrific plane crash. The
sudden crash killed the pilot and flight crew, leaving the surviving passengers
to fend for themselves. Their only shelter from the cold and snow was the
broken fuselage. Food was scarce, they melted snow for their drinking water,
and the only fuel for a fire came from a couple of wooden crates. Injured
and exhausted, the group members argued intensely over the likelihood of
a rescue. Some insisted that searchers would soon find them. Others maintained
that they must climb down from the mountain. Some became so apathetic that
care. At night the cries of the injured were often answered with anger
rather than pity, for the severely cramped sleeping arrangements created
continual conflict. And early one morning, as they were sleeping, an avalanche
filled the cabin with snow, and many died before they could dig their way
I come from a plane that fell in the mountains. I am Uruguayan.
We have been walking for ten days. I have a friend up there who is injured.
In the plane there are still fourteen injured people.
The group escaped from the crash site after nearly three months. But
the group that came down from Andes was not the same group that began the
chartered flight; the pattern of relationships among the group members,
or the group's structure, had been altered. The survivors began the ordeal
without a leader but ended up with a plethora of "commanders," "lieutenants,"
and "explorers." Men who were at first afforded little respect or courtesy
eventually earned considerable status within the group. Some of the men
who were well liked before the crash became outcasts, and some who hardly
spoke to the others became active communicators within the group. As the
harsh environment taxed the group to the limit, new structures emerged
that redefined who would lead, clean, and explore (role structure), who
gave orders and who carried them out (authority structure), who was liked
and who was treated with contempt (attraction structure), and who communicated
frequently or only infrequently (communication structure).
from Piers Paul Read's book, Alive, which recounts the saga of the group
MILAGRO DE LOS ANDES This site is devoted to the post-rescue lives of the
survivors. The comparison of the men with their counterparts in the movie
version is particularly intriguing (click here). This site is in Spanish, but you can translate it using Altavista's Babelfish (click here for instructions on adding Babelfish to your browser)
Alive: The MovieThe Hollywood version of Read's
book stresses the importance of the explorers, and overlooks much of the
other aspects of the group's structure. Still, the scenes dealing with
the group's development of a norm favoring cannibalism are powerful ones,
as are the analyses of intragroup conflict.
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