Images by Indian Army
The odds were so against him that only the caprice of Fate saved Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The fact that he is alive after six days under ice and snow is not a miracle. It is unbelievable.
And yet it happened. He should have gone into hypothermia and deep frostbite. Frostbite is so abominable and so irreversible. I have seen it on three sherpas on the Nun Kun climb who were blocked from reaching down to Camp II by an avalanche. The digits of the hand or foot just turn black and a sort of gangrene sets in. There is no thawing, nothing one can do but lop off that part.
This soldier is still fighting for his life. How the hell did he make it this far?
For one, Nature gave him an air pocket under the ice fall. He must have had the presence of mind to do three things. He must have dug deep around his face to increase the air supply. This act is made more workable by the heat from spittle. Keeping his wits about him, he then may have performed a freestyle swimming exercise to ‘float’ to the top level of the ice so he was not crushed. He had enough insulation in his clothing to keep him from freezing, an indicator that our troops are well equipped.
One of the exercises you are taught when you are at high altitude is that if you are hit by an avalanche, try to ‘reach for the sky’. That means one arm over your head reaching skywards. You might be noticed if a hand is sticking out and you will have given yourself space to spit. Expedition leaders also advise that if you can, you urinate so the heat causes a melt.
It is also possible that having not yet been told where he was found, one can surmise that he was tossed to the periphery of the fall because it is at the centre where the avalanche is at its worst.
Just like the rapids you try to hold onto something like a rock sand wrap yourself around it and the force of the ice can throw you anywhere.
This said, all this amounts to very little and is more academic and workable only in limited falls. Under controlled circumstances, all this is possible. When you are being tossed about like a leaf in a storm, it doesn't hold water. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa beat the most incredible odds and there is no case on record where anyone has survived six days under ice.
It is not explainable. It really isn’t. Spit and space may have played cameo role for the first two hours but after that, it is impossible really to find scientific basis for his survival.
You have to believe in God, whichever one you wish.
And we can only bow our heads in humility and the Power that kept him alive and hope he gets okay. He came this far he has to make it.
For ever and a day, he epitomises the spirit of mankind and the josh that spurs the Indian army.