“This is a really stupid way to die.” However, because of the training my father, a 747 captain, had instilled in me growing up I instinctively surrounded myself with a “bubble of calm.” I had learned over the years that whenever emergencies or tough situations arise to slow things down in my head and try to assess the situation.
A crowded field heads into dangerous rapids
Nevertheless, I knew I had about a minute-and-a-half of available oxygen before I’d black out and drown. Luckily for me, that never happened. I was able to shift the boat that was on top of me, free myself from the maze of tree limbs that were holding me captive, and swim toward the light. When I surfaced the first image that greeted me was my friend and teammate Bo Parfet hanging onto a branch against the surging river. He had come up about a minute earlier.
As for me, I have thought about that day often and consider myself lucky. The scenario could have been drastically different, and I don’t know if I would have survived. I have always prided myself on being risk adverse and safe in the field, but good explorers or adventurers are able to sense dangerous situations, unlike I had done on that day on the river in Belize.
A widely used phrase, though somewhat cliché, is that the mark of real character in a climber is not how he stands on the summit while holding a flag, but how he pulls himself out of an icy crevasse. Expeditions have a way of revealing a person’s true personality, mostly because teammates spend so much time together in close quarters and often in trying conditions, that all pretenses quickly vanish. No one should ever underestimate the value of being a good teammate. A group that works cohesively together will triumph over individual effort every time.