But the mountain was to become a memorial for the boys. After they failed to return to their families, an aerial search found the boys' tracks dead-ending at the jagged edge of a colossal avalanche. A massive search effort turned up little until the spring thaw, when searchers recovered a camera, dragged a half mile down the mountain. Its film, miraculously intact, eventually pointed the way to the boys' bodies, suspended upside down in a cave of snow and ice.
In The White Death, McKay Jenkins unfolds a gripping natural history of avalanches, framed by the story of one of the worst avalanche disasters in mountaineering history. Ranking among the most destructive natural phenomena on earth, ava-lanches have shaped human endeavors from the beginning of recorded history. In 218 b.c., Hannibal lost more than eighteen thousand men, two thousand horses, and several elephants in deadly slides in the Italian Alps. During the First World War, combatants launched explosives onto the slopes above enemy troops, triggering slides that killed more effectively than firepower--and, paradoxically, pioneered the technology now used to tame avalanches on ski slopes all over the world. Yet our lifesaving skills remain almost as crude and limited as they were centuries ago: the rescuer's best tool is still a long, thin pole used for probing the packed snow for its victims.
The White Death merges a fascinating natural history with a cautionary tale of the damage our sense of invincibility can do in the face of awesome natural power. Like Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire, The White Death chronicles an American tragedy of lives cut short. And just as Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm re-creates the sensation of drowning, this unforgettable book provides the disturbing details of every climber's worst nightmare: being buried alive in a torrent of snow and ice. Those who read it will never venture unwarily into the hills again.
About: A colorful history of humankind's relationship with a natural disaster explores Hannibal's loss of eighteen thousand men to an avalanche, Austria's use of avalanches as a weapon during World War I, and a recent tragedy that buried five young climbers in Glacier National Park.
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