Survival of the Fittest?

Lucky Lincoln Hall

At the very moment that I was writing the previous entry on Mark Inglis’s climb of Mount Everest and the abandonment of English climber David Sharp, another climber – Australian Lincoln Hall – was also left for dead near the top of the world’s highest peak. He had collapsed after reaching the summit. Sherpas did try to rescue Hall, but abandoned the attempt, declaring him dead. He spent the night out alone and untreated at 8700 metres. The next day, another climber found Hall, detected signs of life, and, in contrast to the fate that had befallen David Sharp, another rescue operation was launched. Lincoln Hall is now down from the mountain and although somewhat frostbitten, showing every indication of recovery.

The point of this is not what specifically happened to Hall, but that survival is sometimes possible even against the odds. Fellow scientists that I work with have, I know, sometimes stepped in to put an Adelie penguin chick out of its misery after it has been caught by a skua. I never would. As distasteful as the brutal deaths of the chicks may be at the bills of the skuas, I’ve seen such chicks escape. So the same logic that suggests we should not interfere with Nature, suggests that we should not abandon a fellow human being in straits no matter how dire: there is always a chance. Survival of the fittest is often survival of the luckiest – and on Mount Everest, it would seem, that can come down to something as simple as who finds you.
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