Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance

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9780553714609: Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance

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A fascinating blend of adventure and science, LAST BREATH recreates in heart-stopping detail what happens to our bodies and minds in the perilous last moments of life when an extreme adventure goes awry.

With a growing number of people setting out to climb snow-capped mountains, swim choppy seas, and hike through dark, dense jungles, extreme deaths and brushes with death seem to have become everyday occurences. A compelling synthesis of science, history, possibility, and prevention, LAST BREATH examines the physiological, psychological, and emotional stages our bodies and minds endure at the brink of death. Listeners will shiver with a man lost in snowy woods, suffering from
hypthermia, as he tears off his clothes, burning up from cold. They will hallucinate with a young woman as she succumbs to a cerebral edema stranded at the top of Anapurna. And while a kayaker tumbles helpless underwater for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, listeners too will gasp for their last breath.

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Prepare to have some of your greatest fears laid bare in this collection of riveting, and often terrifying, "cautionary tales from the limits of human endurance." Based on interviews with accident survivors and the medical specialists who treat them, veteran outdoor writer Peter Stark offers mostly fictitious accounts (there is one based on a true historical incident) of people caught in life-threatening situations. In Last Breath, he thoroughly explores what happens to the human body and mind during drowning, a long fall, burial beneath an avalanche, hypothermia, dehydration, mountain sickness, the bends, malaria, scurvy, hyperthermia, and contact with a poisonous jellyfish. Stark packs enough historic and scientific information and page-turning suspense into each chapter to make them all fascinating and useful. And he answers some perplexing questions in the process, such as why those suffering from acute hypothermia often rip off their clothing in an effort to save themselves.

No, Stark does not have some unresolved death wish--he readily admits that he fears death. But he also understands that the fine line between life and death actually entices outdoor adventurers to risk everything for the chance to explore their own physical and mental limits. In fact, it is exactly this close proximity to death that makes the experience come alive for certain individuals with the overriding desire "to strip away the superfluous, to remove the protective boundaries between that thing you call a self and something larger." These are the stories of those who crossed the line. --Shawn Carkonen

From the Back Cover:

"Un-put-downable stories of outdoor catastrophe and death, carefully and vividly told; they make us, unexpectedly, happy to be alive."
--Ian Frazier

"Peter Stark tells us to 'step beyond the self.' But, not too far beyond, into oblivion. If you've ever wondered just where that edge might be, physically, read Last Breath. It's thick with specific information, and with vividly rendered, often hair-raising stories--both useful and entertaining, a compelling read for those interested in testing their limits, and a sport and pastime for those of us who sort of aren't."
--William Kittredge

"Death comes to us all. Last Breath introduces us to the people who tempt fate and experience their final expiration. We witness their intimate encounters with death from multiple angles. Stark's craft as a storyteller blends physiology, ecology, physics, psychology, and metaphysics into a compelling read. Last Breath is a page-turner!"
--Ira Byock, M.D.
Author of Dying Well

"Forget the edge of your seat. Last Breath takes you to the edge of your life, for a pulse-pounding glimpse into the Great Beyond. There are many ways to risk your life in the out-of-doors, and Stark has captured them in exquisite and harrowing detail."
--Jim Robbins
Author of A Symphony in the Brain:
The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback

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