Oct 13, 2021 • 27M

The Boat Accident - audio edition

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Heather Heying
Audio reads of articles from Natural Selections: If it evolved, it's fair game: from jungles to hospitals, from herons and ghost moths to vitamin D and viruses, these reads of weekly essays cover lots of ground. Did you find an article on the main site that you want to hear rather than see? Most likely it's available here, for paying subscribers.
Episode details

This week I’ve brought The Boat Accident, which I wrote about in 2019 and experienced in 2016. There was some thought that this story should be included in A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century, but we couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate it, so while two other near-death experiences are related in the book, this one is not.

From the middle of this essay:

The wave hits and it is searing chaos, impossibly loud, firehose water everywhere, me holding on to the metal railing with my left arm, as the boat rears up and bucks and finally flips, all the while thrashing my body, over and over and over again against hull and hardware, fiberglass and metal. I hold on to the boat through all of it. The water comes and comes and comes and it is fast and dreadful, whipping me, slamming me, darkest green and brightest white, screaming and foaming, and it feels like the end of the world, a whirlpool tugging into darkness and depth and death.

And then, suddenly, nothing. Utterly still. No movement at all. And silent. And fully dark, nothing through the darkness, no sense that there might be color out there somewhere, just a kind of lapping, sloshing, stillness, like the longest night has fallen and perhaps there had been people once, but now there are no more.

I am under the boat, trapped, with no air. Into my head, in front of my eyes, images come: my two boys, my man. And a mantra: I am not allowed to die.

I make a lateral move. Pause to assess, air in my lungs diminishing. No change: no movement, no light, no sound, nothing. I am not allowed to die.

Another lateral move. Still no change. This time I give myself a quick pat down, checking for obvious injuries. Ohh…the fact that I can actually feel my bone, my tibia, from the side of my calf where there was, until moments earlier, quite a lot of muscle, is not a good sign. I see my boys again, in my mind’s eye.

I am not allowed to die.


The audio transcripts of my Tuesday posts are usually restricted to paying subscribers, but I sometimes make them available to all, as this week. I am also, this week, beginning occasional posts to paying subscribers with links to articles and other media that have grabbed my attention. Later this week, look for the first one of those, which will include a link to an essay on why the world seems to have been so convinced that authoritarians exist only on the political right, and another to a research paper comparing relative risks to young men from mRNA vaccines, vs risks from Covid.