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Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Электронная книга419 страниц6 часов

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Автор Piers Paul Read

Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд

3/5

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Об этой электронной книге

The #1 New York Times bestseller and the true story behind the film: A rugby team resorts to the unthinkable after a plane crash in the Andes.

Spirits were high when the Fairchild F-227 took off from Mendoza, Argentina, and headed for Santiago, Chile. On board were forty-five people, including an amateur rugby team from Uruguay and their friends and family. The skies were clear that Friday, October 13, 1972, and at 3:30 p.m., the Fairchild’s pilot reported their altitude at 15,000 feet. But one minute later, the Santiago control tower lost all contact with the aircraft. For eight days, Chileans, Uruguayans, and Argentinians searched for it, but snowfall in the Andes had been heavy, and the odds of locating any wreckage were slim.
 
Ten weeks later, a Chilean peasant in a remote valley noticed two haggard men desperately gesticulating to him from across a river. He threw them a pen and paper, and the note they tossed back read: “I come from a plane that fell in the mountains . . .”
 
Sixteen of the original forty-five passengers on the F-227 survived its horrific crash. In the remote glacial wilderness, they camped in the plane’s fuselage, where they faced freezing temperatures, life-threatening injuries, an avalanche, and imminent starvation. As their meager food supplies ran out, and after they heard on a patched-together radio that the search parties had been called off, it seemed like all hope was lost. To save their own lives, these men and women not only had to keep their faith, they had to make an impossible decision: Should they eat the flesh of their dead friends?
 
A remarkable story of endurance and determination, friendship and the human spirit, Alive is the dramatic bestselling account of one of the most harrowing quests for survival in modern times.
 
ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательOpen Road Media
Дата выпуска11 окт. 2016 г.
ISBN9781504039123
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Автор

Piers Paul Read

Piers Paul Read, third son of poet and art critic Sir Herbert Read, was born in 1941, raised in North Yorkshire, and educated by Benedictine monks at Ampleforth College. After studying history at Cambridge University, he spent two years in Germany, and on his return to London, worked as a subeditor on the Times Literary Supplement. His first novel, Game in Heaven with Tussy Marx, was published in 1966. His fiction has won the Hawthornden Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Two of his novels, A Married Man and The Free Frenchman, have been adapted for television and a third, Monk Dawson, as a feature film. In 1974, Read wrote his first work of reportage, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which has since sold five million copies worldwide. A film of Alive was released in 1993, directed by Frank Marshall and starring Ethan Hawke. His other works of nonfiction include Ablaze, an account of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl; The Templars, a history of the crusading military order; Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography, and The Dreyfus Affair. Read is a fellow and member of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Council of the Society of Authors. He lives in London.    

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Рейтинг: 3.0540098199672667 из 5 звезд
3/5

611 оценок30 отзывов

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  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (1974) is one of the most widely read books in the Outdoor/Adventure genre. It continually ranks in Amazon's top-25 sellers for its category, and National Geographic ranks it #58 on its list of all-time 100 Best Outdoor Literature. The story grips you by the collar and pulls you forward never letting up until the end. You wonder if you read a book, or were actually there, it is effortless. Alive is about a group of mostly under-25 men faced with starvation and physical endurance in a remote and harsh geographic region, it reminded me of two other classic narrative non-fiction works, Alfred Lansing's Endurance (1959), and Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea (2001). I have some minor quibbles. In the interest of a gripping narrative, Read sacrificed character development, so it was often difficult to keep names straight. By the end, about a handful stood out as "knowable", but the rest it seemed like we hardly knew them. I found myself constantly shifting back and forth between the pictures as I came across a name to remind myself who the person was. This worked, but it was a lot of work on my part that could have been smoother had Read devoted a chapter or two to more fully develop the important characters.In addition, there is now a new book out by Nando Parrado (Miracle in the Andes (2006)) which tells the story from a survivors perspective, and while I have not read it yet, it is reported that he shows things in a different light. Contrary to Read's image of a quarreling fractious group, Parrado emphasizes less titillatingly banal aspects, and goes into the deeper transformations members went through. It is generally being reviewed as a more subtle, introspective and mature work. It has the advantage of being a first-person account and not a journalistic summary, but Alive was written within a year of the events and so retains perhaps a more authentic memory.Alive is and will always be a classic survival story, in particular for those involving cannibalism. I can't wait to see the two movies based on it plus Nando Parrado's book.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    Alive by Piers Paul Read is a must-read if you're interested in human vs. nature stories of survival.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    In 1974 Piers Paul Read authored Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, based on interviews with the boys that survived the Fairchild F-227 crash on Friday, October 13, 1972, parents, officials, and the Dutch clairvoyant Gerard Croiset Jr. At that time I was a toddler, I must have seen the movie version (1993) sometime. Now, in 2016 with the publication of the e-book version of this #1 New York Times bestseller, I had the chance to dig into this miracle come true in a 5+ hours read.Only sixteen of the original forty-five passengers on the F-227 survived. Shocking is the pace in which one turned to cannibalism, and yes the described cruel details may not be the best chapter to read before sleeping. Intriguing is the psychology of the Uruguayan amateur rugby team, their friends, and family involved in attempts to make a safe place for their own, share warmth and ration food. Brave the efforts to search the harsh mountain area to look for food, human habitation, and use everything available from the wreckage. Inspiring is their faith in God.10 weeks after the crash, two of the survivors attempted an all-or-nothing descend and discovery of a Chilean peasant. Read could use the bare facts to sustain the narrative of the days before the crash, its aftermath, as well as the reception of the survivors by family, journalists, and church officials.
  • Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд
    3/5
    Hmm. An interesting book. Amazing what these young men went through and still were able to survive. It seemed to be a very frank retelling, with interesting insights into the different characters who survived.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    "[The survivors] had neither sensationalized nor sentimentalized their own experience and it seemed important for me to tell the reader what they had told me in the same 'matter-of-fact' manner." –Piers Paul ReadI remember watching the film adaptation of this book when I was quite young, and being so impressed with the resilience of the human spirit, and the desire to live. This book surpassed the film, because Read did such a great job of involving the reader in the whole ordeal, including the plane crash survivors, their families, and the efforts others made to keep searching for the victims even when the odds of survival were dismal. This edition had interviews with the author and two survivors thirty years after the publication of the book. It's really hard for me to believe that Read was only thirty-one years old when he was selected for this great project, even though he'd previously only written fictional novels. I also love that it was extremely fact based. Nowhere in this book is the reader told what they should feel about sensitive subject matter, and yet it was told in such a way that I felt involved–a spectator and visitor to the stranded fuselage that served as home to the survivors. I'm glad I read this before I read Nando Parrado's personal memoir about the ordeal, Survival in the Andes, although it will probably be some time before I can recircle this event. It really moved me to the core. Definitely a compelling read. Inspirational and gut wrenching. "We all have our own mountains, and it's important to remember that no matter how bad things are, one can always overcome them and more so, one must never forget that they can always be worse. It's important to value the small things in life" –Alvaro Mangino, one of the sixteen survivors
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    This book tells the story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes Mountains. They are faced with a critical situation that results in them taking drastic steps to survive -- eating the bodies of their dead teammates. This is an agonizing account of what they went through and what people will do to survive. Although it might sound gruesome, you follow the survivors through their initial repulsion, denial and finally to acceptance that this is what is needed to survive. I read this book years ago but never forgot about it. It was also made into a movie starring Ethan Hawke. I liked the movie too but the book (as is almost always the case) was superior.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    This book is a very detailed and graphic account of the experiences of a group of young Uruguayan rugby players and their fellow travelers whose plane crashed in the South American Andes mountains. Sixteen eventual survivors of a passenger list of 45 explain how they managed to survive over 71 days in an environment with little food and minimum of suitable clothing.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    I read this back in the 1970's.Once I started I could not put the book down! I read it in one day!Great insight into humanity under horrific conditions. Forget the movies,read the book.I will never forget this one.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    I read this when it first came out in the mid 1970s. It was gripping and horrifying and amazing and I could NOT stop reading it.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Oddly perhaps, I find this an uplifting story. Yes, people died, and other people had very hard choices to make about how they were willing to survive. But they did survive, and two men hiked across the Andes to try to get help - when they didn't have any gear or training to do so. It's an amazing story.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    One of the classic stories of survival, Piers Paul Read writes about the October 1972 crash of an Uruguayan plane carrying an Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes. Of the 45 passengers on board, 16 survived for 10 weeks, forced to eat the passengers who died. Two survivors managed to walk out of the wilderness to get help. An incredible story of fortitude and survival instincts in the very worst of circumstances.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    This is an amazing tale of disaster and survival during unthinkable circumstances. A Urugayan plane carring a rugby team crashes high in the Andes mountains. The survivors of the initial plane crash are forced to eat the dead while awaiting rescue. Eventually two of the rugby team members manage to hike out of the mountains for help.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    Truly an amazing book. Much better than any movie made from it. A powerful story of friendship, love and the will to survive. A true story. Tragic, shocking, difficult, but powerful. You'll never forget it and it will inspire you.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Alive. Piers Paul Read. 1974. This is the story of the survival of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plan crashed in the Andes. It is the most harrowing survival story I have every read. They survived by will, faith in God, and cannibalism. I would not suggest that anyone read it. I heard an interview with the author in which he stressed the faith of the survivors and decided that I would read it. The author did a remarkable job telling the story in a matter of fact style that communicated the horror in a much more realistic way than a lurid account ever could.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Quite a read, especially since it speaks truth. The intesity of the situation and the canibalsim keeps you hooked even though the writing style isn't on the newest standards. I liked this book a lot, don't recommend it for young readers.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    True account of a plane crash in the Andes where several people survived by living in the snow in the remains of the airplane and eating what was left of their fellow passangers. Pretty morbid.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    If you enjoy true adventure stories, incredible survival tales, and suchlike, you will love this book. Piers Paul Read is a great writer, but the plot is so gripping you almost don't notice it. The author does what he should do when recounting such an exciting story--tell it simply and stay out of the way.A very good read.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    It's amazing what humans can do in extreme circumstances, sometimes repulsive, sometimes awe inspiring.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    This book was really amazing. I have always wanted to learn more about this tragic event but only recently picked up the book. I was amazed by the fortitude and determination of these survivors. Really a great read. The only draw back would be the wrap up at the end but since it was written so close to the actual event, that was to be expected.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I read it for the first time in high school, a friend recomended it. It's heart breaking and uplifting all at once.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    on Saturday, September 17, 2005 I wrote about this book (not much alas)


    wow this book was great.
    I've read it in 1 day, could not stop reading.
    shed some tears to and I think they are all hero's
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    In October of 1972 a plane carrying 45 passengers and crew crashed into a glacier in the Andes. Within a week there were only 27 left alive and the food was running out and soon hope of rescue was lost. To stay alive, those remaining had to resort to eating the bodies of the dead. Eventually two of their number climbed a mountain to reach civilization and rescue those left behind. That describes gruesome suffering, but somehow this account managed to be life-affirming. Maybe because, after all, this wasn't some random group of passengers. The plane was taking a team of Uruguay rugby players, their family and friends to an exhibition game in Chili. So teamwork, friendship, faith, courage--all are an important part of this story. To allow themselves to eat the body of their dead, some clung to their faith, even trying to see their taking nourishment from them as a form of communion--as a choice to live. Read writes with a restraint and sensitivity that doesn't allow you to read this and feel anything but admiration for the survivors. I was reminded of this book because I just read the account of Nando Parrado, one of the survivors, in Miracle in the Andes. It's a moving story in its own right--Parrado was one of the two men who climbed a mountain to bring help back. But even in the mind of Parrado and his co-author, it's Alive that was their touchstone. Parrado called Alive a "magnificent book" and said he had not tried to tell his own story for 30 years because he felt that book already covered "all the public needed to know." Rause, his co-author, in his acknowledgments admitted wondering if another book was necessary since Alive "told that story in such exhaustive detail, and with such definitive scope and power." I read Alive decades ago--it was assigned reading in high school, and it made an indelible impression. Even decades later, I remembered its details, and how much it moved me, vividly.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Most know the story of "Alive," a true account of astonishing survival. In 1972, a plane carrying a rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the Andes mountains. Of 45 passengers, only 16 survived the 70 days on the mountain. Their food supply quickly depleted, and rather than starve to death, they made the grisly decision to eat the bodies of their dead companions. This cannibalism has been hyped extensively as an act of bravery, but the enormous faith that they placed in God and man, enabling them to withstand stunning hardship, was even more inspiring. In addition to starvation, they experienced horrific weather conditions, an avalanche, injuries, and dispair, and incredibly, their endurance and will to live triumphed. The book could have used some editing; there was a lot of repetition, and it would have been helpful if the author had added a chart to help keep track of the many characters. 5 stars for the epic experience, 3 for the novel.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    This is an excellent story about human endurance in extremely difficult circumstances. The author has researched the information about the situation in great detail. Approximately, he tells the story from before the crash and through the aftermath of events subsequent to the survivors re-entry into society. I strongly recommend this book.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Read this as a teenager, so the 4 stars really represent my memory of the reading experience. I do know it was shocking, thrilling, frightening!
  • Рейтинг: 2 из 5 звезд
    2/5
    Fascinating topic done in by poor writing. Couldn't finish it.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    Em nenhum momento a leitura foi enfadonha. Muito bem escrito.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    In 1972 an airplane carrying forty-five people crashed into the Andes. The search was called off after eight days, only a handful of family members had any hope that they were alive. With strength, determination, and will, the survivors worked together to combat the cold, starvation, and hopelessness they all felt.This was an amazing book. I knew nothing about the Andes survivors before reading this book. I just couldn’t put it down! The author treated the individuals in a humane and fair way, describing both the strengths and weaknesses of each. I thought he did an excellent job on giving the survivors view points and bringing their story to life. Overall, highly recommended.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    I’m sure you are familiar with the story. Plane crash. Cannibalism. And yes, you do get to find out all the explicit, gross details about them eating lungs and bone marrow and stuff.

    However, the author does a very good job of telling the story with dignity and respect. These were real people with real feelings, not just some lurid tabloid story. What would you do in their place?
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Everybody is vaguely aware of the story of the Andes plane crash: the rugby team that went down in the mountains and resulted in the survivors being forced to eat the flesh of the dead. That’s all most people know about it - that one grisly detail. Granted, it’s an important part, but after reading this book I can say that it’s only one part among many.Forty-five people were on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, a plane chartered by the alumni rugby team of Montevideo’s Stella Maris College to attend a match in Santiago, Chile. Aside from the team members themselves, there were also friends and family onboard who had taken the opportunity to support the team and visit Chile. As it was flying through the Andes, a combination of bad conditions and pilot error caused it to clip the side of the mountain. One wing was torn off, flew backwards and sheared the entire tail section off the plane. Then the other wing came off. A crippled tube of a plane sailed through the air before sliding down a mountainside and coming to a halt in a snow-filled valley. Thirty-one of the plane’s forty-five passengers and crew were still alive. Only sixteen of them would leave the mountain alive.They had crashed in a snowy desert. In one survivor’s words, there was nothing around them but “aluminium, plastic, ice and rock.” They had abundant water in the form of melted snow, but no food. Within weeks, they were forced to resort to eating the bodies of the dead passengers to stay alive. But this feature of their ordeal, which has been so reiterated and emphasised, poked fun at by everything from the Simpsons to Newstopia, is only one part of a much larger odyssey of survival. I will admit that I was originally attracted to this story because I’m a Lost fanatic. I’m absolutely fascinated by the concept of being on a plane, an ordinary person on an everday flight, and suddenly being plunged into a survival situation which pushes you to your physical and mental limits. As far as I can tell, this is the only situation in history where a plane has crashed and a number of survivors have been left isolated for an extended period of time (if you know of any others, do drop me a line). The crash occurred on October 13, 1972, and the boys were not rescued until December 23.The bulk of this book concerns not the horrific act of cannibalism, but the myriad of other trials they faced to stay alive in such an inhospitable environment: an avalanche which killed eight of them and left the fuselage buried for three days, an expedition to locate the plane’s tail section, a frustrating two weeks spent trying to repair the radio, and their last-ditch effort to survive which sent two of their fittest, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, on a westward trek towards Chile to alert the outside world that they were still alive. It is a fitting reward to the courage, perseverance and resourcefulness of these young men - all but one of whom were in their teens or early twenties - that they were not rescued by a search team, but rather achieved deliverance through their own gutsy determination and will to survive.Having said all that, I found this book compelling because of the real-life events it described, not because of any particular skill on Read’s part. While he certainly went to great lengths to track down enough information to weave a detailed account of the events, his position as an outsider naturally makes them feel somewhat distant and impersonal. Someone interested in the crash might be better off reading Nando Parrado’s personal account, Miracle In The Andes. Regardless, this is a story that is carried on the strength (and it’s a great strength indeed) of its real-life events, and I have no major issue with Read’s method of telling the story. Michael Chabon and Dan Brown could write books about this event, which would be at opposite ends of the artistic spectrum, and both versions would be equally engaging. No matter how it is told, this is an ageless tale of heroism, courage and adaptability. It’s just a shame that it’s so often remembered as a lurid story about the taboo of cannibalism.He warned them that what they had done might come as a shock to the outside world.“But will people understand?” the boys asked him.“Of course,” he reassured them. “When the full facts are known, everyone will understand that you did what had to be done.”

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Alive - Piers Paul Read

Preface

On October 12, 1972, a Fairchild F-227 of the Uruguayan Air Force, chartered by an amateur rugby team, set off from Montevideo in Uruguay for Santiago in Chile. Reports of bad weather in the Andes brought the plane down in Mendoza, a town on the Argentinian side of the range. The next day the weather had improved. The Fairchild set off again, flying south to the Planchon Pass. At 3.21 p.m. the pilot reported to Air Traffic Control in Santiago that he was over the Pass of Planchon, and at 3.24 that he was over the town of Curicó in Chile. He was authorized to turn north and begin his descent to the airport of Pudahuel. At 3.30 he reported his height as 15,000 feet, but when Santiago control tower spoke to the Fairchild a minute later there was no reply.

For eight days the Chileans, Argentinians, and Uruguayans searched for the plane. Among the passengers there had been not just the fifteen members of the rugby team but twenty-five of their friends and relations, all coming from prominent families in Uruguay. The search was fruitless. The pilot had evidently miscalculated his position and flown north towards Santiago when he was still in the middle of the mountains. It was early spring in the southern hemisphere, and the Andes had suffered exceptionally heavy falls of snow. The roof of the plane was white. There was little chance that it would ever be found, and less chance still that any of the forty-five passengers and crew could have survived the crash.

Ten weeks later a Chilean peasant tending his cattle in a remote valley deep in the Andes saw, on the far side of a mountain torrent, the figures of two men. They made wild gestures and fell to their knees as though in supplication, but the peasant, thinking that they might be terrorists or tourists, went away. When he returned to the same spot the next day the two figures were still there, and once again they made signs to him to approach. He went to the bank of the river and threw a piece of paper and a pen wrapped in a handkerchief to the other side. The bearded, bedraggled figure who received it wrote on the paper and threw it back to the peasant. It read: ‘I come from a plane that fell in the mountains. I am Uruguayan.…’

There were sixteen survivors. This is the story of what they suffered and of how they remained alive.

One

1

Uruguay, one of the smallest countries on the South American continent, was founded on the eastern bank of the River Plate as a buffer state between the emerging giants of Brazil and Argentina. Geographically it was a pleasant land, with cattle running wild over immense pasturelands, and its population lived modestly either as merchants, doctors and lawyers in the city of Montevideo or as proud and restless gauchos on the range.

The history of the Uruguayans in the nineteenth century is filled first with fierce battles for their independence against Argentina and Brazil and then with equally savage civil skirmishes between the Blanco and Colorado parties, the Conservatives from the interior and the Liberals from Montevideo. In 1904 the last Blanco uprising was defeated by the Colorado president, José Batlle y Ordóñez, who then established a secular and democratic state which for many decades was regarded as the most advanced and enlightened in South America.

The economy of this welfare state depended upon the pastoral and agricultural products which Uruguay exported to Europe, and while world prices for wool, beef and hide remained high, Uruguay remained prosperous; but in the course of the 1950s the value of these commodities went down and Uruguay went into a decline. There was unemployment and inflation, which in turn gave rise to social discontent. The civil service was overstaffed and underpaid; lawyers, architects, and engineers – once the aristocracy of the nation – found themselves with little work and were paid too little for what there was. Many were compelled to choose secondary professions. Only those who owned land in the interior could be sure of their prosperity. The rest worked for what they could get in an atmosphere of economic stagnation and administrative corruption.

As a result, there arose the first and most notable movement of urban guerrilla revolutionaries, the Tupamaros, whose ambition was to bring down the oligarchy which governed Uruguay through the Blanco and Colorado parties. For a while things went their way. They kidnapped and ransomed officials and diplomats and infiltrated the police force, which was set against them. The government called upon the army, which ruthlessly uprooted these urban guerrillas from their middle-class homes. The movement was suppressed; the Tupamaros were locked away.

In the early 1950s a group of Catholic parents, alarmed at the atheistic tendencies of the teachers in the state schools – and dissatisfied with the teaching of English by the Jesuits – invited the Irish Province of the Christian Brothers to start a school in Montevideo. This invitation was accepted, and five Irish lay brothers came out from Ireland by way of Buenos Aires to found the Stella Maris College – a school for boys between the ages of nine and sixteen – in the suburb of Carrasco. In May 1955 classes were started in a house on the rambla which looked out under vast skies over the South Atlantic.

Though they spoke only halting Spanish, these Irish Brothers were well suited to the task they now sought to perform. Uruguay might be far from Ireland, but it too was a small country with an agricultural economy. The Uruguayans ate beef as the Irish ate potatoes, and life here, like life in Ireland, was led at a gentle pace. Nor was the structure of that part of Uruguayan society to which they catered unfamiliar to the Brothers. The families who lived in the pleasant modern houses built amid the pine trees of Carrasco – the most desirable suburb of Montevideo – were mostly large, and there were strong bonds between parents and children which persisted through adolescence into maturity. The affection and respect which the boys felt for their parents was readily transferred to their teachers. This proved enough to maintain good behaviour and, at the request of the parents of their pupils, the Christian Brothers gave up their long-standing use of the disciplinary cane.

It was also customary in Uruguay for young men and women to live with their parents even after they had left school, and it was not until they got married that they left home. The Christian Brothers often asked themselves how it was that, in a world where acrimony between generations sometimes seemed to be the spirit of the age, the citizens of Uruguay – or at least the residents of Carrasco – should be spared this conflict. It was as if the torrid vastness of Brazil to the north and the muddy waters of the River Plate to the south and west acted not only as natural barriers but as a protective shell in a cocoon of time.

Not even the Tupamaros troubled the Stella Maris College. The pupils, who came from Catholic families with conservative inclinations, had been sent by their parents to the Christian Brothers because of this order’s traditional methods and old-fashioned objectives. Political idealism was more likely to flourish under the Jesuits, who trained the intellect, than under the Christian Brothers, whose aim was to build the character of their boys – and the generous use of corporal punishment, which they had abandoned at the request of the parents, was not the only means to this end at their disposal. The other was rugby football.

When the Christian Brothers first came to Uruguay, rugby was hardly played there at all; indeed, they found themselves in a country where soccer was not just the national sport but a communal passion. Along with per capita consumption of beef, it was the only sphere in which Uruguay triumphed over the great nations of the world (they won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950), and to ask young Uruguayans to play a different game was like feeding them on bread and potatoes instead of their usual diet of beef.

Having sacrificed one pillar of their educational system in giving up the cane, the Christian Brothers were not going to give up the other. They held to their contention that soccer was a sport for the prima donna, whereas rugby football would teach the boys to suffer in silence and work as a team. The parents expostulated but they acquiesced, and in time they even came to share the opinion of the Christian Brothers as to the merits of the game.

As for their sons, they played it with growing enthusiasm, and when the first generation had passed through the school, many of the graduates were unwilling to give up either rugby or the Stella Maris College. The idea of an old boys’ group of alumni was conceived, and in 1965, ten years after the foundation of the school, this association came into being. It was called the Old Christians’ Club, and its chief activity was playing rugby on a Sunday afternoon.

As the years passed, these games became popular – even fashionable – and each summer brought new members to the Old Christians’ Club and a wider choice of players for a better team. Rugby itself caught on in Uruguay, and the Old Christians’ first fifteen, with the shamrock on their shirts, became one of the best teams in the country. In 1968 they won the Uruguayan national championship, and again in 1970. Ambition grew with success. The team made a trip across the estuary of the River Plate to play teams in Argentina, and in 1971 they made up their minds to go farther afield and play in Chile. To make this possible and not too expensive, the club chartered a plane from the Uruguayan Air Force to fly them from Montevideo to Santiago, and tickets for seats not required by the team were sold to their friends and supporters. The trip was a great success. The team played the Chilean national team and the first fifteen of the Old Boys Grange, winning one match and losing the other. At the same time, they had a short holiday in a foreign land. For many it was their first journey abroad and their first sight of the snow-covered peaks and glacial valleys of the Andes. Indeed, the trip was such a success that no sooner had they returned to Montevideo than they planned to go again the following year.

2

By the end of the next season, considerable doubt surrounded their plans. The first fifteen of the Old Christians had, through overconfidence, lost the Uruguayan championship to a team they considered inferior; as a result, some of the club’s officers thought that they did not deserve another trip to Chile. Another problem they faced was filling the forty-odd seats of the Fairchild F-227 which they had chartered from the Air Force. The cost of hiring the plane was US $1,600. If forty seats were filled, it would only cost each passenger around $40 to fly to Santiago and back – less than a third of the commercial fare. The more seats that remained empty, the more it would cost each passenger, and they still had to meet the expenses of five days in Chile.

Word went around that the trip might have to be cancelled, whereupon those who wanted to go began to look for recruits among their friends, relations and fellow students. There were various arguments for going to Chile. For the serious-minded students of economics there was the experiment in democratic Marxism under President Allende; for the less earnest there was the promise of high living at a low price. The Chilean escudo was weak; the dollar fetched a high price on the black market, and, as a sports delegation, the Old Christians would not be obliged to exchange their money at the official rate. The rugby players tempted their friends with visions of the pretty and uninhibited Chilean girls on the beaches of Viña del Mar or at the ski resort of Portillo. The net was cast wide, drawing in the mother and sister of one boy, the older cousins of another. By the day when the money had to be delivered to the Air Force, they had sold enough tickets to cover the cost.

At around six on the morning of Thursday, October 12, 1972, the passengers began to arrive in small groups at Carrasco airport for the second Old Christians’ trip to Chile. They were driven in cars or pickup trucks by parents and girl friends, and their vehicles were parked beneath the palm trees outside the airport building, which, surrounded by large tracts of well-cut grass, looked more like the clubhouse of a golf course than an international airport. In spite of the early hour and the bleary looks on their faces, the boys were dressed smartly in slacks and sports coats, and they greeted one another with great spirit and excitement. The parents, too, all seemed to know one another. With fifty or sixty people talking and laughing together, it was almost as if someone had chosen the foyer of the airport to throw a party.

Calm amid all this confusion stood the two somewhat stocky figures of Marcelo Pérez, the captain of the first fifteen, and Daniel Juan, the president of the Old Christians, who had come to see them off. Pérez looked decidedly happy. It was he who had been most enthusiastic about this trip to Chile and he who had suffered most at the prospect of its cancellation. Even now that it was taking place, the brow beneath his balding head would wrinkle as some problem was brought to his attention. One such problem was the absence of Gilberto Regules. The boy had not met his friends at the appointed time; he had not come to the airport; and now, when they telephoned his home, there was no reply.

Marcelo knew they could not wait for long. Their departure had to be early in the morning because it was dangerous to fly through the Andes in the afternoon when the warm air of the Argentine plains rose to clash with the cold air of the mountains; already, the Fairchild had taxied across the tarmac from the military base which adjoined the civilian airport.

The boys milling around seemed a motley collection, ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-six, but they had more in common than met the eye. Most of them were Old Christians; and most of those who were not had been to the Jesuit College of the Sacred Heart in the centre of Montevideo. Besides the team and its supporters, there were their friends, cousins of friends, and fellow students from the faculties of law, agriculture, economics and architecture in which many of the Old Christians were now studying. Three of the boys were medical students, two of whom played on the team. Some of them had neighbouring ranches in the interior; many more were neighbours in Carrasco, for what they all had in common was their class and their religion. They were, almost without exception, from the more prosperous section of the community, and all were Roman Catholic.

Not all the passengers who checked in at the desk of the Uruguayan Military Transport were Old Christians or even young men. There was a plump middle-aged woman, Señora Mariani, who had bought a ticket from the Air Force to go to her daughter’s marriage to a political exile in Chile. There were two middle-aged couples and a tall pleasant-looking girl of around twenty named Susana Parrado, who stood in the queue with her mother, her brother Nando, and her father, who had come to see them off.

When their baggage had been checked in, the Parrados went up to the airport restaurant which overlooked the runway and ordered breakfast. At another table, a little distance from the Parrados, sat two students of economics who wore scruffier clothes than the rest, as if to show that they were socialists – a contrast to Susana Parrado, who wore a beautiful fur-lined coat made from antelope skin which she had bought only the day before.

Eugenia Parrado, her mother, had been born in the Ukraine, and both Susana and her brother were exceptionally tall, with fine, brownish-blond hair, blue eyes, and soft, round Russian faces. Neither could have been called glamorous. Nando was gangling, nearsighted, and somewhat shy; Susana, while youthful and sweet in appearance and with a fine figure, had an earnest, unflirtatious expression on her face.

While she drank her coffee, the flight was called. The Parrados, the two socialists, and everyone else in the restaurant went down to the departure lounge and then passed through customs and passport control and out onto the tarmac. There they saw the shining white plane which was to take them to Chile. They climbed up an aluminium ladder to the door at the front of the fuselage, filed into the confined cabin, and filled up the seats, which were placed in pairs on either side of the aisle.

At 8.05 a.m. the Fairchild, No. 571 of the Uruguayan Air Force, took off from Carrasco airport for Santiago de Chile, loaded with forty passengers, five crewmen, and their luggage. The pilot and commander of the plane was Colonel Julio César Ferradas. He had served in the Air Force for more than twenty years, had 5,117 hours of flying experience, and had flown over the treacherous cordillera de los Andes twenty-nine times. His copilot, Lieutenant Dante Hector Lagurara, was older than Ferradas but not as experienced. He had once had to parachute out of a T-33 jet and was now flying the Fairchild under the eyes of Ferradas to gain extra experience, as was the custom in the Uruguayan Air Force.

The plane he was flying – the Fairchild F-227 – was a twin-engined turboprop manufactured in the United States and bought by the Uruguayan Air Force only two years earlier. Ferradas himself had flown it down from Maryland. Since then it had only logged 792 hours: by aeronautical standards it was as good as new. If there was any doubt in the pilots’ minds, it did not concern the qualities of the plane but rather the notoriously treacherous currents of air in the Andes. Only twelve or thirteen weeks before, a four-engined cargo plane with a crew of six, half of whom were Uruguayans, had disappeared in the mountains.

The flight plan filed by Lagurara was to take the Fairchild direct from Montevideo to Santiago by way of Buenos Aires and Mendoza, a distance of around nine hundred miles. The Fairchild cruised at about 240 knots; it would therefore take them approximately four hours, the last half hour of which would be over the Andes. By leaving at eight, however, the pilots expected to reach the mountains before noon and avoid the dangerous postmeridianal turbulence. All the same, they worried about the crossing, because the Andes, though less than a hundred miles wide, rise to an average height of 13,000 feet, with peaks as high as 20,000 feet; one mountain, Aconcagua, which lies between Mendoza and Santiago, rises to 22,834 feet, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and only about 6,000 feet short of Mount Everest.

The highest the Fairchild could fly was 22,500 feet. It therefore had to fly through a pass in the Andes where the mountains rose to a lesser height. When visibility was good there was a choice of four – Juncal, the most direct route from Mendoza to Santiago, Nieves, Alvarado, or Planchon. If visibility was poor and the pilots had to fly on instruments, the Fairchild would have to go through Planchon, a hundred miles or so south of Mendoza, because Juncal had a minimum ceiling of 26,000 feet, and Nieves and Alvarado had no radio beacons. The danger was not just that a plane might crash into a mountain. The weather in the Andes was subject to every kind of treachery. From the east, hot currents of air rose to meet the icy atmosphere at the snow line, which lay at between 14,000 and 16,000 feet. At the same time, the cyclonic winds which blew in from the Pacific roared up the valleys from the west and grappled in their turn with the hot and cold currents from the other side. If a plane was caught in such turbulence, it could be blown around like a leaf in a gutter. It was with these considerations in mind that Lagurara made contact with ground control at Mendoza.

There was no overt sign of anxiety in the passenger compartment. The boys talked, laughed, read comics, and played cards. Marcelo Pérez discussed rugby with members of the team; Susana Parrado sat next to her mother, who handed out sweets to the boys around her. Behind them sat Nando Parrado with his greatest friend, Panchito Abal.

These two boys were famous as inseparable friends. They were both the sons of businessmen and both worked in their fathers’ firms, Parrado marketing nuts and bolts, Abal in tobacco. On the surface it was an unequal friendship. Abal – handsome, charming and rich – was one of the best rugby players in Uruguay and played for the Old Christians as a wing three-quarter; whereas Parrado was awkward, shy, and, though pleasant-looking, not particularly attractive. He played in the second line of the scrum.

The interests they had in common, besides rugby and business, were cars and girls, and it was this which had gained them the reputation of playboys. Cars are inordinately expensive in Uruguay, and both had one – Parrado a Renault 4 and Abal a Mini-Cooper. Both had motorcycles, too, which they took to Punta del Este and rode along the beaches with a girl on the pillion. Here again, their relationship seemed unequal, for while there was hardly a girl in Uruguay who did not want to be seen with Abal, a date with Parrado was not so popular. He lacked Abal’s glamour and easy charm; moreover, he was neither more nor less than what he seemed to be. Abal, on the other hand, gave the impression that his gaiety and his easy, charming manner concealed a profound and mysterious melancholy which, together with an occasional expression of deep boredom, only added to his allure. Abal, in his turn, repaid the admiration of his female admirers with his time. His size, strength and skill enabled him to skip some of the training that was essential for other members of the team, and what energies he saved from rugby were dedicated to these pretty girls, to cars and motorcycles, to elegant clothes for himself, and to his friendship with Parrado.

Parrado had one advantage over Abal for which the latter would willingly have exchanged all the others: he came from a happy, united family. Abal’s parents were divorced. Both had been married before; both had had children by their previous marriages. His mother was much younger than his father, but it was with his father, who was now over seventy, that Abal had chosen to live. The divorce, however, had deeply injured him. His Byronic melancholy was not just an affectation.

The plane flew on over the endless pampas of Argentina. Those by the windows could see the geometric patches of green where crops had been planted amid the prairie and, every now and then, the squares of wood plantations, or small houses with trees planted around them. Then slowly the ground beneath them changed in appearance from a vast paving of green to the more arid ground at the foothills of the Sierras which rose to their right. The grass gave way to scrub and the cultivated land clung only to little spots which were artesian wells.

Suddenly they saw the Andes rising before them, a dramatic and apparently impassable wall with snow-clad peaks like the teeth of a giant saw. The sight of this, the cordillera, would have been enough to sober the most experienced traveller, let alone these young Uruguayans, most of whom had never seen mountains higher than the little hills which lie between Montevideo and Punta del Este. As they steeled themselves for the awesome sight of some of the highest mountains in the world, the steward, Ramírez, suddenly came out of the pilot’s cabin and announced over a loudspeaker that weather conditions made it impossible to cross the cordillera. They were going to land in Mendoza and wait until the weather improved.

A groan of disappointment went up from the boys in the passenger compartment. As it was, they had only five days to spend in Chile and they did not want to waste one of them – or any of their precious US dollars – in Argentina. However, since there was no way around the Andes, which run from one end of the South American continent to the other, there was nothing to be done, so they fastened their seat belts and sat tight as the Fairchild made a particularly rough landing at Mendoza airport.

When it had come to a halt by the airport building and Ferradas emerged from the pilot’s cabin, a wing three-quarter on the team named Roberto Canessa somewhat impudently congratulated him on the landing.

‘Don’t congratulate me,’ said Ferradas. ‘Lagurara deserves the praise.’

‘And when are we going to Chile?’ another boy asked.

The colonel shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know. We’ll see what happens to the weather.’

3

The boys followed the pilots and crew out of the plane and trooped across the tarmac to the customs control, the mountains of the pre-cordillera brooding over them like an immense cliff face. Everything else was dwarfed – the buildings, the oil tanks, and the trees. The boys were undaunted. Not even the cordillera or the distasteful business of buying Argentinian pesos could suppress their high spirits. They left the airport and divided up into groups to take a bus or a taxi into town or to hitch a ride on some passing lorry.

It was lunchtime and the boys were hungry. They had either had an early breakfast or no breakfast at all, and no food to speak of was carried on the Fairchild. A group of the younger ones made straight for a nearby restaurant, which they found was owned by an expatriate Uruguayan who would not let them pay for their meal.

Others went off in search of a cheap hotel and, having checked in, went out into the streets again to take a look around. Impatient as they were to get to Chile, they could not help but enjoy Mendoza. One of the oldest cities in Argentina, having been founded by the Spanish in 1561, it retained much of the grace and charm of the colonial period. Its streets were wide and lined with trees. The air, even so early in spring, was warm and dry that day, and scented with the new blossoms of the flowers planted in the public gardens. The streets were lined with pleasant shops, cafés and restaurants, and outside the city were acres of vineyards producing some of the best wine in South America.

The Parrados, Abal, Señora Mariani, and the other two middle-aged couples booked themselves into one of the better hotels but went their different ways after lunch. Parrado and Abal found a motor race outside the city and in the evening joined Marcelo Pérez to see Barbra Streisand in What’s Up, Doc? The younger boys met up with a group of Argentinian girls who were on a graduation holiday and took them dancing. Some did not get back to their hotels until four in the morning.

As a result, they slept late the next day. No word came from the crew that they should go to the airport, so once again they went wandering around the streets of Mendoza. One of the youngest boys, Carlitos Páez, who was something of a hypochondriac, stocked up on aspirins and Alka Seltzer. Others used the last of their Argentinian money to buy chocolate, nougat, and cartridges of butane gas to refill their lighters. Nando Parrado bought a little pair of red shoes for his older sister’s baby, and his mother bought small bottles of rum and liqueur for friends in Chile. She gave them to Nando to carry, and he stuffed them into an airline bag among his rugby clothes.

Two of the medical students, Roberto Canessa and Gustavo Zerbino, went to a café where tables and chairs were set out on the pavement of a tree-lined boulevard. There they ordered a breakfast of peach juice, croissants, and café au lait.

A short time later, as they sat drinking their coffee, they saw their captain, Marcelo Pérez, and the two pilots walking towards them.

‘Hey!’ they shouted to Colonel Ferradas. ‘Can we leave now?’

‘Not yet,’ said Ferradas.

‘Are you cowards or what?’ asked Canessa, who was nicknamed Muscles because of his stubborn character.

Ferradas, recognizing the high-pitched voice which had ‘congratulated’ him on the landing the day before, looked momentarily annoyed. ‘Do you want your parents to read in the papers that forty-five Uruguayans are lost in the cordillera?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Zerbino. ‘I want them to read, Forty-five Uruguayans cross the cordillera at all costs.’

Ferradas and Lagurara laughed and walked on. They were placed in an awkward situation, not so much by the boys’ taunts as by the dilemma they faced. The meteorological reports were that the weather was improving over the Andes. The pass at Juncal was still closed to the Fairchild, but there was an excellent chance that by the early afternoon Planchon would be clear. It would mean crossing the Andes at a time of day that was normally considered hazardous, but they were confident that they could fly above the turbulence. The only alternative was to return to Montevideo (because it was against regulations for a military aircraft of a foreign power to remain for more than twenty-four hours on Argentinian soil), which would not only disappoint the Old Christians but mean a serious loss of revenue for the impoverished Uruguayan Air Force. They therefore passed the word around through Marcelo Pérez that their passengers should report to the airport at one o’clock.

The passengers did as they had been told, but when they arrived they found no sign of the Uruguayan crew or the Argentinian officials who would have to check their luggage and passports. The boys fooled around while they waited, taking photographs, weighing themselves, frightening one another with the thought that it was Friday the thirteenth, and teasing Señora Parrado for taking a travelling rug to Chile in the spring. Then a cry went up. Ferradas and Lagurara had come into the airport building, both laden with large bottles of Mendoza wine. The boys began to tease them. ‘Drunks!’ shouted one; ‘Smugglers!’ shouted another; and the insolent Canessa said in a penetrating sneer, ‘Just look what kind of pilots we’ve got!’

Ferradas and Lagurara seemed a little disconcerted by the jeering crowd of boys. There was a latent defensiveness about them, partly because they were still undecided about what they should do and afraid that their caution would be mistaken for incompetence. Just at that moment, however, another plane landed at the airport. It was an old cargo plane which made a lot of noise and emitted spurts of smoke from its engines as it taxied over the tarmac, but when its pilot entered the airport building Ferradas approached him and asked for his advice.

The pilot had just come from Santiago and he reported that, though the air turbulence was strong, it should not prove a problem for the Fairchild, which had, after all, the most up-to-date navigational equipment. Indeed, this pilot even suggested that they take the direct route to Santiago over the Juncal Pass, which would reduce the journey to less than 150 miles.

Ferradas decided that they would go – not by the Juncal Pass but by the safer southerly route through the Pass of Planchon. A cheer went up from the boys when this was announced, though they still had to wait for the

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