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Book Review: Dead Mountain: The untold story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident (2014)

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The front cover of Dead Mountain (2014), by Donnie Eichar, encapsulates the essence of the whole book; a group of cross country skiers disappearing into the gloom of a cold, frozen waste. It’s a photograph taken by a member of the ill-fated group.

In February 1959 a group of ten students and graduates from the Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk, Russia embarked on a winter adventure. It was to be a Grade III trip in which they would cover 300 kms in a minimum of 16 days with one-third of the trip challenging. They were to travel hundreds of miles due north, by train and truck, and then on foot and skis to the bleak Otorten Mountain. They were all experienced hikers and skiers and lead by the most experienced; Igor Dyatlov. It was acknowledged that “Igor had indisputable authority” (p.31).

A remote woodcutter settlement marked a decision point for the expedition. Beyond this point there would be no other settlements, no roads, no people, no help just a barren, frozen wasteland. A member of the group, Yuri Yudin, made a decision to abandon the trip at this point. Illness made it impossible for him to continue and should it get worse he would put the rest of the party in danger. As his friends trudged off into the snow and mist it was the last time he would see them alive. Their slashed and abandoned tent, complete with their boots and equipment, clothing and food all neatly arranged would be found by the search party. Their bodies, partly clad, without shoes and three with evidence of violent trauma would be found months later. Some died from their injuries, the others by hypothermia… within a few hundred yards or so from their tent. At the time of their last diary entry the temperature would be forty degrees below zero with winds of 40 mph. It raised the obvious question: “What… provoked the nine hikers to leave the sanctuary of their tent?” (p.217); the official answer was an “unknown compelling force” (p.253). Thus began the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.

In his exploration of the Dyatlov Pass Incident  Donnie Eichar weaves together two stories. One involves pen portraits of group members and their friendship. The numerous, grainy, black and white photographs capture moments in their lives and along their route. A description of life in Russia in the late 1950s, the impact of the Cold War, restrictions and secrecy serves to explain the attraction of wild open spaces.

The other is a desire to understand the circumstances surrounding the unexplained deaths of nine young people in bizarre circumstances. In doing so Eichar actually retraced their steps in the bleak Russian wilderness. He drew upon his research skills as a documentary film maker and the insights provided by the only survivor, Yuri Yudin. Eichar’s story also draws upon the hiker’s journals and photographs, government records and interviews, maps and witness statements. He assembles the evidence and in doing so challenges the myths and legends that have emerged in over fifty years.

Dead Mountain: The untold story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident  is a compelling read. Informed by the ‘evidence’ Eichar skilfully explores previous explanations – only to challenge and discount them. He finally formulates an account that satisfies all the known and previously unavailable scientific evidence. In the words of Sherlock Holmes: ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ Donnie Eichar’s conclusions may just persuade you that the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is finally solved.


Dead Mountain: The untold story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident (2014)

  • by Donnie Eichar
  • Publisher – San Francisco: Chronicle Books
  •  288 pp
  • ISBN 9781452140032         

Donnie Eichar is a director and producer of film and television. His work includes the documentary Soaked in Bleach (2015) and the TV Series Buried Life (2010) and Killing Fields (2016).

He was born in Florida, USA and now lives in Malibu, California with his wife.


Find out more about the reviewer, Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

Dr Fred Lockwood is Emeritus Professor of Learning and Teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver and dived in the waters of Central America and Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Islands. Follow Fred at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 180: Dawn Kernagis

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Dawn Kernagis

Gemma and Ian chat to Dawn Kernagis.  Dawn joined DEEP in 2023 as the Director of Scientific Research.   DEEP is an ocean technology and exploration company with a mission to ‘Make Humans Aquatic.’ DEEP’s undersea habitat and submersible systems, combined with multi-phased diver and human performance training, will create the next evolution of subsea science, research, and exploration capabilities.   Dawn is a NASA-trained NEEMO Aquanaut, Explorer’s Club Fellow and Women Divers Hall of Fame Inductee and who is also tasked to establish DEEP’s first US presence in North Carolina.   Dawn has also been a diver with numerous underwater exploration, research, and conservation projects since 1993, including the mapping and record-setting exploration of some of the deepest underwater caves in the world.

https://www.deep.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawn-kernagis-995383152/

The BiG Scuba Podcast is brought to you by Narked at 90.   “Beyond Technical”   Narked at 90    If you are thinking of moving across to tech diving or completely new to diving, Narked at 90 can advise and guide on the best equipment and set up for your personal or commercial requirements  https://www.narkedat90.com/.  There is currently a code for you to use for purchases and the code is  BIGSCUBA2024.

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The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 173: DEEP – Making Humans Aquatic

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Gemma and Ian visited DEEP and were hosted by Phil Short, Research Diving, Training Lead, and were given a tour of the facility at Avonmouth and then over to the Campus at Tidenham.

DEEP is evolving how humans access, explore and inhabit underwater environments. Through flexible, modular and mobile subsea habitats that allow humans to live undersea up to 200m for up to 28 days, work-class submarines, and advanced human performance research, DEEP completely transforms what we are capable of underwater and how we conduct undersea science and research.

www.deep.com

You can listen to Episode 173 of the BiG Scuba Podcast here.

We hope you have enjoyed this episode of The BiG Scuba Podcast.  Please give us ★★★★★, leave a review, and tell your friends about us as each share and like makes a difference.   Contact Gemma and Ian with your messages, ideas and feedback via The BiG Scuba Bat Phone    +44 7810 005924   or use our social media platforms.   To keep up to date with the latest news, follow us:

We are on Instagram                     @thebigscuba

We are on Facebook                      @thebigscuba

We are in LinkedIn                          https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian%F0%9F%A6%88-last-325b101b7/

The BiG Scuba Website                  www.thebigscuba.com

Amazon Store :                                https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/thebigscuba

Visit   https://www.patreon.com/thebigscubapodcast and subscribe – Super quick and easy to do and it makes a massive difference. Thank you.

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