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Their Stories

How Recounting Close Calls and Tragedies Helps Save Lives

Hidden behind the dry statistics of recreational boating accidents are very real people who got into trouble that they never anticipated. Many of them died. They're the human face of cold water safety, and an important part of our website is devoted to sharing some of their stories so that others can learn from their experiences.


Many are positively heart-rending:  A Scottish wildlife expert and his seven year old son; a young man on his honeymoon; two young women in the prime of life who were just out for a short paddle; a father who took his two year old son out for a canoe ride on a shallow lake to give his wife a break on her birthday; a young woman who went out for a short canoe trip with her boyfriend, who wanted to serenade her with a guitar.


It's a long list that gets longer every year, and the victims are fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers, none of whom expected to die when they went out on the water that final time.


I know from personal experience how effective such stories can be because my own life was changed over fifty years ago when I almost died of hypothermia on my first-ever backpacking trip. It was a rough, eye-opening experience, but I didn’t find out how close I came to dying until several years later when I ran across this copy of Dr. Theodore Lathrop’s groundbreaking booklet: Hypothermia – Killer of the Unprepared.


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Dr. Lathrop was a smart man, and he carefully balanced the dry facts of heat production, heat distribution and heat loss with stories of people who died from hypothermia. Reading about their tragedies, it was very easy for me to imagine myself as one of them. The information in his little booklet not only changed my rosy view of the great outdoors, it also changed the course of my entire life.

- Moulton Avery

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