Just like a Sherlock Holmes mystery
After WWII, Russian students of the Ural Polytechnic Institute went on hiking trips in the Ural mountains in the winter and actually earned certificates. This particular group of nine students were intent on earning their Certificate III, having already earned the I and II and they were led by an efficient and experienced student, Igor Dyatlov. They spent days planning what they needed to wear and take. They would backpack what they needed and would be skiing much of the time. The part of the Ural Mountains they were heading into was dangerous in that one could never be sure of when storms would occur and the weather was already -20 when they set out, with winds that could reach 45 miles an hour, making the temperature feel like -65. But in order to be awarded a Certificate III, these were the conditions they had to experience. There were seven young Russian men and two young Russian women.
This all occurred in 1958, but there was no radio reception availability or the modern types of communication that we now have. Anyone who entered into such an undertaking had to be well experienced and knowledgeable of the conditions they would endure, and be courageous and physically strong. This is the basis for this non-fiction story. The team never reported in when expected and finally a rescue team went out to find them, which was difficult because it had snowed much, the weather was colder and they never filed a map of their route before leaving. Eventually after much searching by several teams of men, they found their tent, shredded and eventually stumbled across five bodies and after a span of time, they found the other three at an entirely different location. One of the young men had to give up because of severe rheumatism and had to return to the institute.
After days of searching before finding the bodies, which were commencing to decompose, the autopsies showed that the first five died of hypothermia and the other three had severe bruising, broken ribs and wounds. But the strangest fact of all was that no one was wearing shoes, no coats or heavy clothing and even though the tent was shredded, their gear and food was laid out as if to be used the next day. So what occurred that sent these young people out into the fierce elements in a panic that they had done nothing to protect themselves from the elements.
The author of this story, an American, found this Russian story fascinating and although there had been investigations by the Russians and much speculation since 1958, there was always a reason why the possibilities set forth just didn’t answer all of the questions. The author made two trips to Russia investigating everyone who had any information on the deaths of these young people and shares it with the reader. The way it is written, you learn about each of these young people, what the times were like in Russia in 1958, descriptions of events and discoveries made by the search and rescue groups, and his findings after discussing it with Russian and American scientists. That is why I said it was like Sherlock Holmes…block by block the author builds the scenes, introduces the actors and then provides a probability. It is a book that can be read in four or five hours and for me it became a page turner, for this was not fiction I was reading, but real events and real people. This story intrigued me.