Reading 10: SURVIVAL STORIES

Reading Exercise

Read the text and choose the correct answer A, B or C for each question.
We’ve all heard amazing stories in which people struggle heroically to survive against all the odds. We wonder what we would have done in similar impossible situations and find it hard to imagine how these people found the strength to stay alive. The truth, though, is that not all survivors are quite so heroic. As these two stories show, the will to survive isn’t always so strong.

The marathon runner

Thrilling yet terrifying, the Marathon des Sables is arguably the world’s toughest foot race. Competitors attempt a six-day 150-mile run across the Sahara desert in temperatures of over 100 degrees. Just imagine getting lost. That, however, is exactly what happened to an Italian policeman called Marco Contadino, a regular competitor, when he took part in the race in 1996. A sandstorm developed as he was running, which covered the marks of the course he was following with sand. Marco should have stopped and waited for the storm to calm down, but he kept on, desperate to stay in seventh place in the race, only to find that when the wind dropped he could no longer see the course. He reached for his water bottle and found there were only a few drops left in the bottom of it.

For three whole days Marco tried to find his way back to the course, with barely any water and no idea what direction he was heading in. He started to visualize the agonising death he would soon have to face. A friend had once told him that dying of thirst was the worst of all possible deaths. Fearing such a long and painful death, he decided to cut his wrists with a knife. But, short of water, his blood was thick and would not flow. In desperation, he headed out into the desert one more time, expecting to die. Five more days passed until, miraculously, a group of Tuareg nomads found him and took him to a village. Marco discovered he was in Algeria, 130 miles away from the race course.

The yachtswoman

As an experienced sailor, Lynn Walker knows nothing is ever certain on the high seas. However, when she took on the job of sailing a luxury yacht from Tahiti to San Diego, she must have believed that it would be one of the less complicated trips she had done. Little did she know that after a week of calm sailing the weather would change dramatically, bringing a tropical depression from Central America to blast the yacht with 50-foot waves. Lynn found herself battling against Hurricane Raymond. It was an unequal battle, and the boat soon turned over.

Lynn was unconscious for a long time. When she did finally come round, she realized that the boat had miraculously righted itself, and that she had been saved by the lifeline connecting her to the boat. She had tied it to herself moments before the boat had first gone under the waves. Tragically, she could see Simon, her boyfriend, lying dead in the water.

There was plenty of food on the boat, and the weather was calm again, but Lynn could only feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. She found that she couldn’t eat, and simply sat on the soaking wet deck. It was as if she had given up, and was waiting to die. Then, all of a sudden, a voice in her head told her to survive. She managed to put up a makeshift sail, and consulting the surviving charts on the boat, somehow sailed to Hawaii.