Chapter 11 Summary

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Brian is overcome by depression when he thinks about how long it is taking rescuers to find him, but he finds that if he keeps busy he is better able to maintain a healthy mental state. Fortunately, there is always plenty that must be done to ensure his comfort and survival.

Two days after his initial success building a fire, Brian digs a hole near his sleeping area in which to store his turtle eggs, adds wood to the fire, and cleans up his camp. Tidying up consists only of shaking out his windbreaker and smoothing the sand where he sleeps, but it is a routine that helps him maintain focus. Brian has decided to always have enough wood on hand for three days, which is actually a “staggering amount.” It will take all morning for him to gather the requisite quantity of wood.

Brian sees his reflection again when he stops to take a drink at the lake, and he notes that the swelling on his head is nearly gone. He also notices that his body is changing; although he has never been fat, he has always carried a little extra weight just above his belt. This is completely gone now, and his body is lean. His skin has been “cooked past burning” and is now nicely tanned, and his face is leathery from constant exposure to smoke from the fire.

Even more significant than the changes in Brian’s body are the differences in the way he thinks. Brian is more perceptive—he hears things more acutely and sees every detail of elements in his environment. His mind and body appear to have achieved a connection; he finds that he instinctively moves into the proper position in response to possible warnings of potential danger.

Initially, Brian had thought to keep a signal fire burning atop the rock ridge every day, but he quickly realizes he will never be able to keep up with the wood supply required. He decides instead to have everything ready up there, and if he should ever hear anything resembling a plane engine passing by, he will race up with a burning limb and ignite the fire.

On the last of many trips to carry fuel to the top of the stone bluff, Brian pauses and regards the breathtaking landscape below him. He has not seen the lake this way since coming down upon it in the doomed Cessna. After shaking off vague memories of fear, he is stunned by the sheer beauty of the scenery. As he watches, he sees a kingfisher dive into the water and emerge with a fish in its beak; it occurs to him that fish are food and that if the bird can catch them, he should be able to as well.

Brian goes back down to the lake, takes off his shoes, and wades into the water. There are little fish everywhere; the lake is “literally packed with life.” He lunges after some “small, roundish fish” that are swimming quite close to his legs but finds that he is not nearly quick enough to catch them. Brian thinks that if he had a spear he might be able to secure some fish for a meal.

As it is getting late into the afternoon, Brian sets off to look for the right kind of wood with which to make a spear and gather a few more raspberries before settling into his shelter for the night. He decides with happy anticipation that he will reward himself with an egg for all the work he has done this day and then he will sit by the fire and sharpen the wood with his hatchet before going to sleep.

There is definitely much to do to keep busy in the wilderness.

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Chapter 10 Summary


Chapter 12 Summary