Miracle in the Andes
In October 1972, a plane carrying an Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes. Not immediately rescued, the survivors turned to cannibalism to survive and after 72 days were saved. Rugby team member Parrado has written a beautiful story of friendship, tragedy and perseverance. High in the Andes, with a fractured skull, eating the flesh of his teammates and friends, Parrado calmly ponders the cruelties of fate, the power of the natural world and the possibility of continued existence. "I would live from moment to moment and from breath to breath, until I had used up all the life I had." Parrado, who for the past 10 years has been giving inspirational talks based on his experiences, lost his mother and sister in the crash. Struggling to stay alive, his guide becomes his beloved father: "each [stride] brought me closer to my father... each step I took was a step stolen back from death." More than a companion to the 1970s bestselling chronicle of the disaster, Alive, this is a fresh, gripping page-turner that will satisfy adventure readers, and a complex reflection on camaraderie, family and love.
Comments: Martin Flanagan
Source: The Age
December 11, 2009
TWO weeks ago I wrote about a documentary I had seen on the members of the Uruguayan rugby team who survived for three months in the Andes after their plane crashed while flying to Chile for a game in 1972. In 1993, I met two members of the team, Roberto Canessa and Carlitos Paez, and was much affected by them.
A few days after my recent column there was a knocking on my door around 9.30 one night. It was Andrew Watts, father of Jack Watts, the 2009 No. 1 AFL draft pick. I had previously interviewed Andrew and knew his interest in sport corresponded with my own. What he had brought me was his copy of Nando Parrado's Miracle in the Andes, signed by the author.
Nando Parrado, more than any other individual, saved the 16 survivors. Henceforth I shall refer to him simply as Nando, because that is how he signed himself in the book - Nando in strong print leaning forward, like a figure trudging through the snow.
The Uruguayan team survived by eating the flesh of their dead fellow passengers. Initially, the interest that surrounded them concerned cannibalism. Now, nearly four decades later, what stands out is what they did not do - they did not turn on each other. Their story stands in contradiction to markers of our age like Lord of the Flies, William Golding's novel about a group of English schoolboys marooned on an island who descend into savagery.
The Uruguayans ate one another physically, but sustained one another spiritually - or, some would say, morally.
At this point it is necessary to mention the five Irish Christian brothers who introduced rugby to Uruguay in the 1950s at Nando's school. The brothers, writes Nando, believed soccer fostered egotism. ''To the Christian brothers, rugby was more than a game. It was sport raised to the level of a moral discipline.''
Nando, while initially missing ''the wide-open flair of soccer'', came to believe the Christian brothers were right. ''No other sport gives you such an intense sense of selflessness and unified purpose [as rugby],'' he writes.
I got a much fuller sense of the horror of the experience reading Nando's book. After 17 days on the side of the mountain, an avalanche hit the half of the fuselage in which they were sheltering, filling it like an ice cream cone, and burying it in snow. Before, when they ate flesh, it was presented to them by a group who acted as the butchers. The bodies were stored outside in the snow and their identity was kept private.
Trapped beneath the snow, they were forced to eat the bodies lying around them of those who had died in the avalanche. Nando also tells how he kicked and beat a teammate, Roy Harley, who lay down in the snow to die when they got caught in a blizzard. Having struggled and got him vertical, Nando shouted in his ear: ''Now - for your mother!'' There is a moving photo of Harley with his mother after the rescue.
For the two men I met - and clearly for Nando - the experience was intensely spiritual. What makes Nando interesting is that he departed from God in the traditional sense. His mother had died in the crash. After coming out of a coma, his early days on the mountain were spent trying, but failing, to save the life of his younger sister.
Nando became the leader of the group but he didn't start as it. Initially, that was Marcelo, the devoutly Catholic team captain. Marcelo kept assuring them rescuers were on their way. On the eighth day, when they heard on a transistor that the search had been called off, Marcelo dropped into the snow with a cry of despair and thereafter became withdrawn. Marcelo was one of eight who died in the avalanche.
Nando believed they had to save themselves by walking west. First, he and two companions had to climb a mountain of 5180 metres. One part of the ascent was diagonally across a sheer wall of snow. They had no picks, no ropes, no climbing equipment. They kicked grips for their feet and balanced forward, chest against the snow. What would happen if one of them lost his balance? ''First,'' writes Nando, ''he would swim away from us for a long time in the air''.
They had only summer clothing, although several layers of it. In addition to the cold, they had to deal with thin air, blizzards and their physical debilitation. Nando told the others that from the summit of the mountain they would see the green plains of Chile. When he reached the top there was no green, only white.
This was Nando's moment of despair. But, in that moment, he saw ''with a terrible clarity'' that death, not life, is the constant in human existence. Life, he writes, is a fragile dream. But in this, his worst moment, he still felt love for his family. The opposite of death, he realised, is not life but love. Nando resolved to walk to his death with love, his image of love being his father.
He and Roberto Canessa walked for 10 days and were found by a startled shepherd. The world press got there before the emergency response unit.
Back home, Nando's father had taken up with another woman and sold all his son's belongings. Nando became a playboy, and started driving racing cars. He had aspirations of racing in formula one when a woman entered his life that he knew intuitively to be his wife. They married, Nando entered the family business and didn't know he had a story to tell until pestered to speak at a business conference in 1991. He regards his fellow survivors as his brothers.
This is my last column for three months as I'm going on long-service leave. For Christmas I'd like to give you a view of the mountain Nando climbed.
The Guardian (London).
Sue Arnold on Miracle in the Andes
Saturday May 19, 2007
Miracle in the Andes, by Nando Parrado, read by Daniel Philpott (10hrs 5mins).
All that most people remember of the plane that crashed in the Andes in 1972 is that the survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism. I didn't see the film based on Piers Paul Read's bestselling book Alive, in which he interviewed the 16 survivors. Having read this powerful and moving description of their 72-day ordeal by one of the two men who spent 10 days trekking across one of the Andes' highest mountains to get help, I'm glad I didn't. Parrado himself reads the introduction and epilogue and makes it clear that Read's version of events was not entirely accurate.
This, then, is the horse s-mouth account of one of the most incredible and inspiring survival stories of modern times. Having heard the author himself describe in the prologue how he regained consciousness three days after the crash, I wondered why he didn't read the book himself. He has a good voice: deep, thoughtful, expressive. I soon realised why. Despite his international celebrity, Parrado is still as diffident and self-deprecating as he was when, aged 23, he boarded that ill-fated charter flight carrying 45 people - his Uruguayan rugby team, supporters and family members - to a match in Chile. Do we really need all this background stuff, I thought impatiently, about his goodlooking best friend who could pull any girl he wanted and what his father told him when he was nine? Let's get on with the crash, the blizzard, the rescue, etc. It is, however, this slow buildup of individual characters that makes them so real and the book so unforgettable. For some, the mental trauma is worse than the physical suffering.
I thought Joe Simpson's Touching the Void was the last word on high-altitude drama, but Parrado's analysis of the complexities of survival within the group dynamics is riveting. It will restore your faith in humanity.
Miracle in the Andes
72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home
By Nando Parrado with Vince Rause
(Crown Publishers, 2006, hardcover, $25.00)
After three days in a coma, a young rugby player awakens to find himself inside the wrecked fuselage of a small charted aircraft. Confused, bitterly cold, and hammered by a throbbing, pounding pain, he reaches up to touch his head, matted and congealed with blood. The skull gives way slightly and he realizes—sickeningly—that he is pressing the shattered fragments of his skull against his very own brain. His friend Roberto Canessa leans over him. “We had given up on you. . . . We crashed into the mountains. The airplane crashed. We are stranded here.”
Thus begins Miracle in the Andes, Nando Parrado’s heart-stopping account of one of the most famous and celebrated survival stories of all time—that of a Uruguayan rugby team’s plane crash into the high Andes and the dramatic escape of sixteen survivors against seemingly impossible odds.
After making world headlines in 1972, the event was further publicized in Alive, the 1973 book by Piers Paul Read, and the subsequent movie. But for a long time Parrado declined to tell the tale himself, unwilling to reexamine the past with the kind of “unflinching honesty” he felt such a book would require. It was only years later, having reluctantly agreed to give a talk at a business conference, that the floodgates of his heart opened and he realized for the first time the astonishing power of his story to evoke a profound sense of purpose and connection.
It is impossible to fully convey the horrors experienced in those mountains, and yet Parrado takes his reader through them all, page by page, day after excruciating day. It was a catalog of wrenching disasters. Many, including Parrado’s mother, were killed on impact; his younger sister died in his arms. An avalanche killed several more of the plane’s passengers. There were two failed attempts by some to climb out of the site, during which one group nearly froze to death. And food was in such short supply that the survivors were forced, with horror and revulsion, to eat the bodies of dead friends in order to ward off starvation.
But it was in such a hellish world that a truly unconquerable human spirit emerged, and it is the story of that emergence that sets Miracle in the Andes apart from every other telling of the catastrophe. When learning via a salvaged radio that a rescue mission launched for the flight had been called off, the faith of the survivors was severely shaken. Parrado, however, had a stunning realization: “In this awful place, too much certainty could kill us. . . . I vowed to myself that I would never pretend to understand these mountains. . . . The rules here were too savage and strange. . . . I would live as if I were dead already. With nothing to lose . . . nothing could stop me from fighting; my fears would not block me from following my instincts, and no risk would be too great.”
With the death of his sister, Parrado describes how his love for his father swelled in his heart, and his desire to return to him tugged incessantly “like a lifeline.” It was a love that didn’t fail—and indeed only seemed to get stronger the more hopeless the situation became. In a book in which a reader may be moved to tears every few pages, one of the most moving moments of all happens at the top of a seventeen-thousand-foot mountain, heroically scaled over four days by Parrado and two others in the hope of salvation and escape. Parrado looks around from the summit and sees only endless mountains stretching in all directions. He is so shocked he forgets to breathe. But then: “I felt a sharp and sudden longing . . . for the warm, strong embrace of my father. . . . It staggered me: The mountains, for all their power, were not stronger than my attachment to my father. They could not crush my ability to love. . . . Death has an opposite, but the opposite is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or human will. The opposite of death is love. . . . For a brief, magical moment, all my fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. . . . I would walk until I had walked all the life out of me, and when I fell I would die that much closer to my father.”
The true glory of this love is that Parrado refuses to rationalize it. Upon his return, many hailed him as a hero, and although he has never seen himself that way, the sheer force of his grace and humanity makes Miracle in the Andes a stunning testament to the miracle of human life stripped down to its purest essentials.
“Nando Parrado: My Heroe”. By Nat Baird.
Read the Nando Parrado Nat's Report PDF
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–In 1972, Parrado and his rugby teammates from Uruguay were flying to Chile to play a match against the national team. Crossing the Andes, the aircraft crashed on a remote, high-altitude, glaciated slope. This remarkable story of the survivors omits none of the raw intensity and brutality of their experience but is burnished by time, casting an analytical perspective on ways in which their subsequent lives were influenced by the ordeal. The many forms of courage exhibited and the sustaining power of love of family are the basis of the narrative as the group supported one another in a collective refusal to surrender to the mountain. Parrado credits their physical conditioning and the rigorous team ethic inherent in the sport as the foundation for the trust and allegiance that enabled the men to battle the odds. Reduced to the most elemental human needs and learning from a radio transmission that rescue efforts had been abandoned, they reluctantly realized that their only food source was the bodies of the victims. Parrado was respectful of the spiritual faith of those who clung to a belief in rescue, but put his energy into engineering a plan and acted as a leader of the expeditionaries who hiked through the perilous mountains to find help. A detailed chronicle of these events was presented in Piers Paul Read's Alive (Avon, 1975), but Parrado's memoir offers a reflective expansion of that work. Dramatic photographs are included.
Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Once in a very long time, a book arrives that changes the way I see the world and the people within it.
When I first saw the cover of Nando Parrado's Miracle in the Andes -- the image of a wrecked airplane on a mountainside -- I thought, "I know this story." After all, it had wrenched my emotions 20 years ago under the title Alive, by Piers Paul Read. And I wasn't sure that I had the stamina to read the tale all over again.
While I worked up my nerve, my wife snatched the book and started reading it. Every night for a week, she sobbed herself to sleep. By the time I was ready to begin, the book looked as if it had been swept away in a flood. My wife passed it over to my side of the bed, along with a half-empty box of Kleenex. "You'll need this," she said.
The story begins when a small plane filled with young rugby players takes off from the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, en route to a match in Santiago, Chile. The date: Friday the 13th of October, 1972. Bad weather cloaked the Andes, but the brash young members of the Old Christians Rugby Club wouldn't hear of turning back. Dodging pockets of extreme turbulence, the pilots aimed the plane at the heart of the cordillera, hoping to guide it through the narrow Planchón Pass.
Inside, the team and a handful of their supporters were in high spirits -- swapping seats, playing cards, throwing a rugby ball around. Outside, nothing but thick fog, crags and sheer mountain walls almost within arm's reach. Then "there was a terrible howl of metal grinding. Suddenly I saw open sky above me. . . . I was torn from my seat with incredible force and hurled forward into complete darkness and silence."
Three days later, Nando Parrado woke from a coma, a ball of snow held up to his mouth by a fellow survivor. His skull was fractured, but he was alive. His little sister, who had been on the flight, was barely alive; his mother was dead.
Forty-five passengers and crew had been aboard the aircraft. Of these, 32 survived the impact, including one of the pilots. He was trapped and so badly injured that he begged for the revolver he kept in his flight bag. In the first days, Parrado nursed his sister and took stock of the situation. The odds of survival were almost nil. They were stuck at 12,000 feet, dressed in short-sleeved summer shirts, many of them with appalling wounds.
Marcelo Perez, the captain of the team, had taken charge in the most heroic way. He hunted the baggage for food, had the dead pulled out and buried, and organized the building of a snow wall to plug the end of the fuselage. Without this insulation, no one would have lived through the first night. But most of all, he coaxed the living to keep faith.
With no proper supplies, the wounded began to drop off one at a time. Parrado's sister died in his arms, while he himself had to wait for nature to repair "the shattered fragments" of his skull. The living had nothing to drink except a few daily drops of snow melted by the sun. And then there was the matter of food. In one of the most moving passages, Parrado explains how he and his companions faced the grim reality of survival: If they did not eat the raw flesh of their dead comrades, they themselves would die. "I knew those bodies represented our only chance of survival," he writes.
Soon after, a frail transistor radio coaxed into life spewed out the dreadful truth: that the search to save them had been called off. Morale plummeted. The only hope of survival was to send a team for help. Parrado and three others volunteered to go -- to scale the sky-scraping peaks standing between them and civilization. But before they could leave, an avalanche in the night smothered eight more members, including their gallant captain, Perez, and temporarily trapped the rest of them in the wreck.
Finally, packing the warmest clothes and a supply of human meat as food, Parrado and his "expeditionaries" set off over the mountains in search of salvation. Eventually, after 10 days of indescribable hardship and a total of more than 70 days in the Andes, he and one of his companions spotted a peasant on the far bank of a roaring river. Parrado scribbled a note, tied it to a stone and threw it across. It began: "I come from a plane that fell into the mountains."
Miracle in the Andes tells much the same story as is recounted in Alive, published more than 30 years ago. The difference is that this book contains a level of emotion only a firsthand account can provide. Parrado's narrative paints the terrible tale in vivid colors for the first time. It would be hard to find another book written with such engaging sensitivity and, at the same time, so charged with sheer humanity. Parrado's extraordinary quality is to remind those of us living within the firm safety net of society that we are all capable of pushing ourselves to the limit. But more important, it teaches us not to waste a single moment, or a single breath.
Reviewed by Tahir Shah
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
The author, a Uruguayan rugby player, survived a plane crash in the Andes. His skull was smashed, and he lay in a coma for two days before waking to a freezing hell. Yet he summoned the courage and strength to be one of a small group of survivors who walked out of the mountains. (The story was the basis of the 1970s' bestseller ALIVE.) Parrado's storytelling is long-winded at times but still worthwhile listening. His prose paints vivid pictures, and reader Josh Davis keeps a strong pace. Audio quality is outstanding. The author reads the prologue and epilogue, and the set contains a bonus interview with Parrado.
T.F. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine--
Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team and their families and supporters to an exhibition game in Chile crashed in the Andes. Parrado was one of the survivors, and he tells the story of their 72 days struggling against freezing weather and dangerous avalanches. The author's mother and sister were among those killed in the crash. Parrado was unconscious for three days, but after two months he set out on a 10-day journey in subzero cold to seek help. He describes how he and two other survivors climbed up the slopes and then back down: oxygen-starved bodies, dehydration, loose rocks, patches of ice, and a feeling of hopelessness. The survivors who had been left on the mountain were rescued by helicopter crews. It is an amazing story of bravery and courage.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Piers Paul Read wrote the great book Alive and after an excellent movie it could be thought there was little more left to the actual story. Wrong. Nando Parrado adds much much more to this survival story and doesn't re-tell like Read but lets you know what happened to him and his emotions on the mountain. This is a great companion to the classic book. Most (myself included) wanted to be Nando - he was strong, and saved his friends through unreal internal fortitude - he's a genuine hero. His is one of the most compelling survival stories in recorded history and this is a worthy memoir.
Where Read lets you know what happened Parrado lets you know the why's and how's they survived - the real heart of this story. He let's the reader know in more detail the miserable existence on the mountain. When you read his thought "tears waste salt" it might sound cold hearted but it was the RIGHT thought and you begin to understand his inner strength. His thoughts about his family are touching, his feelings about his great father are insightful - what a fortunate son, what a fortunate father. Without his father the disappearance of the plane would remain a mystery.
In an interview Roberto Canessa once said the survivors know each other better than anyone. I really didn't understand that until reading this book. Parrado also sheds light on some negative depictions of survivors in Read's book and it helps the reader understand their actions. I also enjoyed reading what happened to Parrado after the incident and how the words and behavior of his friends who died on the mountain has influenced him. It took Parrado a long time to realize how inspirational his story is and it's great he's written his story. Make no mistake; this story is not about cannibalism, it is about love, survival and determination. I'm a better person for having read this book.
Great Story, Great Insight, April 12, 2006
Reviewer:Lance M. "lance-m"
This is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read - just an incredible story and told with perfect pacing. I started reading the book on a plane of all places and then finished it the first night at 4:00 in the morning. You won't be able to put it down - even though you'll know the ending.
The story truly puts our small problems in perspective and gives the reader an apprecition for the human spirit at it's most tested.
Now I just want to find someway to hear Nando Parrado speak in person.
A Masterpiece!, May 15, 2006
Reviewer: Daniel P. Markoff "D.P. Markoff" (Nichols Hills, OK USA)
A great read, November 22, 2006
Reviewer:M. D. Fonseca "carmarthen" (Zunder)
I think I would be one of the first people to die in a situation like that... The strenght Parrado and his friends had was something astonishing. The book, written with the indispensable help of a professional writer (Vince Rause) is very well paced and interesting.
All I have to do now is to read ALIVE, by Piers Paul Read. (never read it).
Heartbreaking...Inspiring...Excellent, November 16, 2006
Reviewer:Cr8Tive Mama "Cr8TiveMama"
Loved this book...it broke my heart and made me swell with pride...broke my heart again...and made me jump up and down with gratitude that this group was so strong and unwilling to give up.
Don't miss this book.
How an ordinary guy becomes extraordinary in order to survive, November 9, 2006
Reviewer:Fiction Fanatic (Ithaca, NY USA)
Nando Parrado recounts his ordeal in the aftermath of the crash in the high Andes of the Uruguayan plane he was taking along with other members of his rugby team, some family members and friends bound for Chile in the winter of 1972. Just in case you don't remember, this was the Peron era in Chile. The team was on its way to a rugby match and brought along some close friends and relatives to spread the cost and make hiring a private plane more affordable. They were all anticipating fun and relaxation in Chile, and brought along lots of cigarettes because Chile was experiencing shortages of luxury items due to the political situation at the time. They crashed due to rough weather and pilot error. Some passengers and all the crew died from the crash. Others died from their injuries in the days following. Still others died when an avalanche buried them inside the fuselage where survivors were awaiting rescue for days, then weeks, and finally months to no avail. Nando and two others, after waiting in vain for rescue, undertook to climb their way up and out of their crash site to civilization. Though never a leader on the rugby team, and not particularly inclined to leadership before in his life, Nando became the driving force behind the long walk to survival.
Piers Paul Read [ALIVE!] told the story of the group's experiences competently and thoroughly shortly after their rescue, and his book was popular in the 70s for the drama of this tale, especially his description of how survivors were driven to eat the flesh of their dead friends and loved ones, as it was the only source of food in the frozen landscape. [They never ran out of cigarettes, however!]
But Nando tells his own story, including his spiritual journey, his humility, his love of his family, and his determination to live. One fascinating aspect of his story is the culture and philosophy of rugby that these young men took with them and that influenced how they approached the challenges of survival. The book also tells how he stumbled, many years later, onto writing this book when he was coerced into giving an inspirational keynote speech, and found the details of his long ago ordeal pouring out to the crowd who sat in rapt attention for several hours. When the young Nando had returned to Uruguay, he found himself transformed in the eyes of others into a hero, as were all the survivors. What's ironic about his account, however, is that, while he calls it 'Miracle in the Andes', it is clear that sheer human will and determination is what made survival possible, and that THAT is what constitutes the miracle, not anything supernatural.
I found it useful to reread Read's book after Parrado's account, just to remind myself of some of the aspects not included in this version. A nice addition to Parrado's version is the update he provides on the survivors' lives 30+ years later. I highly recommend this book.
Couldn't put it down, November 7, 2006
Reviewer:Michael R. Curtis (Brentwood, CA)
This book is among the top non-fiction books I have ever read. Nando's experience is a great example of the strength that can be in each of us. The will to survive can overcome all challenges if we let it. Nando is truly a hero!! A tremendous story well written.
Letters from Readers
Fm: Antonio Guerra.
We don’t know each other.
I am Portuguese, also born in 1949 as you. I am Chemical Engineer and most of my time I worked for petroleum companies Mobil and BP. I made an early retirement and I am now a Consultant for Environmental, Health and Safety management systems. I have 2 children Miguel 31 old and Margarida 26 old and now a grandson Manuel 8 months old.
I didn’t resist to write this mail to you as I just read your book MIRACLE IN THE ANDES which 1 st edition became translated into Portuguese in January 2007. Usually I am not fast reading books but I can tell you that I read your book in a couple of hours distributed by 3 or 4 days.
It is difficult for me to express by words my feelings, surprise and general appreciation about your book and your personnality.
For me this is a lesson of life, love, humanity in fact a “miracle” even if I don't believe in miracles specially those related to religion, god and so forth. I feel a need to congratulate you about your epic attitude to save the lives of your remaining companeros. In some parts of your book I felt so deeply involved and imagining the scenes, that my eyes became wet. I am a person with strong convictions but during the reading I wondered many times what would be my behaviour and attitude if I was among the survivors !...
Certainly I would have some more things to state at this time anyway I wrote this simple words so that you know that at a distance of 9500 kms and 4 hours difference, a Portuguese citizen read your book and gave you a very positive feedback about your love attitude !
If sometime you come to Portugal please let me know as it will be a great honnor for me meeting you as, after reading your book, I believe you are a good human being.