Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

by Kenneth Kamler
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Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth Kamler

"Surviving the Extremes brings personal experience and scientific knowledge together beautifully, giving us narrative that are powerful, moving, and very real." -Oliver Sacks

A true-life scientific thriller no reader will forget, Surviving the Extremes takes us to the farthest reaches of the earth as well as into the uncharted territory within the human body, spirit, and brain. A vice president of the legendary Explorers Club, as well as surgeon, explorer, and masterful storyteller, Dr. Kenneth Kamler has spent years discovering what happens to the human body in extreme environmental conditions. Divided into six sections—jungle, high seas, desert, underwater, high altitude, and outer space—this book uses firsthand testimony and documented accounts to investigate the science of what a body goes through and explains why people survive—and why they sometimes don’t.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143034513
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 141,583
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Kamler is a microsurgeon and the author of Doctor on Everest, his account of being the only physician on Mt. Everest during the Into Thin Air expedition. He has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 48 Hours, and CNN and profiled in The New York Times and USA Today. He was named a “best doctor” by New York magazine and lives in New York City.

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Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
cceurvorst More than 1 year ago
Surviving the Extremes was a noteworthy novel written by Kenneth Kamlet about his experiences as a doctor of the extremes. He retells stories of past patients who have pushed their bodies to the edges of survival. He explains how the body is capable of altering itself in dire situations and how his previous knowledge of medicine was miniscule. I gave this book 4.5/5 stars because I was engaged the entire time. Kamlet’s stories are intriguing and his knowledge of the human body is sprinkled throughout the book. The book is balanced with stories, anatomy, and his reflections, which kept me turning the pages. The only reason I didn’t give it a 5/5 was because the desert chapter is a little dry and packed with anatomy. If you are interested in the physiology and adaptations of the human body I would defiantly recommend this book to you. I found it so fascinating how the human body is capable of doing so many different things in extreme situations. I also really enjoyed how some of the mysteries such as “seeing the light” and eating yourself alive were explained.  I also enjoyed this book because of the multiple settings: jungle, high seas, desert, high altitude, underwater, and outer space. If you enjoyed this book I would also recommend Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings. This book is a lot like the jungle chapter in Surviving the Extremes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Henry Chapman Block 1 Surviving the Extremes is an enthralling book about the limits of how and where the human body can function. It focuses on six extreme locations; the jungle, high seas, desert, underwater, high altitude and outer space. Kenneth Kamler is a leading doctor and head of the Explorer’s Club so he has a lot of experience with observing and treating the human body in different environments. One of my favorite parts was when Dr. Kamler talked about the plethora of plants that can be used for medicinal purposes in the Amazon. Drugs like curare (used for hunting prey), coumadin (anticoagulant), milk of magnesia (laxative), and even alkaloids and tryptamines are common occurrences in the jungle and Kamler teaches us how the natives have utilized these drugs to improve their day to day life. The theme across the entire book is identifying the limits of human endurance and function. Kamler uses a very large medical vocabulary in his descriptions and I really like this because I am learning a lot about diseases and anatomy and the human body. This book really has a lot of information to take in so it can only be read a little bit at a time. While it doesn’t have a major plot line, each adventure offers new challenges for Kamler and his team as he recounts the trials and tribulations of his medical prowess in each of the six locations across the globe. I don’t have any dislikes about this book really, at first I wasn’t too into it because I usually really enjoy reading fiction but then it really grew on me and I could not put it down. I would highly recommend this to anyone that is curious about travel, or medicine or adventure reading. I personally want to go to medical school so this book was very relevant to my life and my future plans. I would rate the book highly and I might even have to read it again because there is so much information to absorb.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gracie Gallagher Block 5 Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth Kamler has six different true stories of people’s bodies getting pushed to the farthest limits and still surviving as told from the experiences of M.D. Kenneth Kamler. From the Amazon Rainforest to Outer Space and every environment in between, each story is fascinating and keeps you turning the page. The most prevalent themes in the book is survival and human endurance. These themes are shown in all of the six different stories of human survival, but shown the most in the chapters Desert and Outer Space. Anyone who likes science or is interested in the human body would love Surviving the Extremes. This book would be useful in school curriculum such as biology classes. I really enjoyed how well Surviving the Extremes held my attention throughout the whole book and I had a hard time putting the book down. I didn’t enjoy that the whole chapter didn’t just talk about the one story but it also when into different things that had nothing to do with the story of that chapter, but the whole chapter was very interesting. The whole book Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance shouldn’t be made into a movie since there is six different stories, however each chapter could be made into their own movies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is specifically written for those who love science and biology, but would be a good read for anyone. Surviving the Extremes is a book full of exhilarating real-life adventure that would catch anyone’s fancy. It captures the adventurous side of any reader while being informational at the same time, representing the unique writing style of the mix between a scientist’s report and an adventurous action story. In Surviving the Extremes, Kenneth Kamler gives the reader narratives of adventures that he has been on as the expedition doctor, as well as other extreme survival situations that he analyzes from the viewpoint of a doctor and biologist. The situations and places that he explores in the book includes Everest, the Amazon, the Sahara Desert, survival at sea, and even space. The intriguing intell on the anatomy and physiology of the human body makes this book perfect for a biology class (or in my case, anatomy and physiology). Overall I gave this book a 4/5 rating because it was a good read and was interesting, but the unique writing style made it a longer read. However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It would brings out the scientist in people and could maybe spark an interest in traveling to extreme locations for the adrenaline seekers.
WadeS More than 1 year ago
Surviving The Extremes shows us what happens when life is at stake and the body’s capacities are put to their greatest test. Surviving the extremes uses first hand testimony and documented accounts to illustrate what goes on in environments where our instinctive survival strategies must become fully engaged. The stories reveal how infinitely complex are the workings of the human body and how heartbreakingly fragile it is. I think Surviving The Extremes is a good read for anyone who is interested in the human body or what the body goes through in different environments. Kenneth Kamler the author of the book and also a doctor gives in depth detailed explanations as to what is happening to the human body and why, but the most interesting part is when he can’t explain what is going on because it shows what the human body is capable of in its instinctive nature to survive such as falling 80 feet to your head and surviving or almost cutting your hand off with a machete. I like how Kenneth Kamler makes the book easy to read for someone who is not yet in the medical field or someone who is not familiar with the words he uses, by giving understandable definitions the reader is able to know exactly what he is talking about without having to use a dictionary to figure out what he is talking about. I also like how Kamler gives you aha moments throughout the book by giving you history about the human body and its evolution to ensure the survival of the homo sapiens race this includes why humans have different body shapes such as a rounder body versus a more angular body type and the reason for this is because a rounder body helps retain heat like an eskimo and an angular body helps release heat like people who live near the equator.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surviving The Extremes by Dr. Kenneth Kammler recounts the experiences of the author (and others) when placed in environments where the human body is pushed to it’s absolute limit. Throughout the novel, Kammler describes the effects on the human body both physically and mentally. Kammler’s use of anecdotes of his times spent away from the comforts of the United States provided a tangible means for individuals to grasp the severity of the conditions the human body can be subjected to. The novel completely and thoroughly discusses multiple aspects of the human body, and has proven to be a valuable resource in high school anatomy and physiology classes. Although Kammler himself is an esteemed individual among the medical community, the explanations of the physiological mechanisms of the human body he provides are simple enough for a common individual to understand. Comparing biological processes to everyday normalities is one way that Kammler keeps his reader’s focus. Kammler does not simply discuss his own experiences in the novel; he tells the stories of individuals who have won, or lost, the battle with the extremes of the Earth. While ninety percent of Kammler’s anecdotes are beneficial to understand, the last chapter, a hypothetical case of individuals travelling through outer space, did not fit the model of terrestrial extremes that had been laid out through the rest of the book. It felt that a stretch to an even greater extreme was trying to be achieved, but it was unnecessary for the success of the book. Individuals that have a desire to comprehend the human body on a microscopic level will enjoy this book as Kammler has an explanation for every extreme a body can be pushed to. Kammler’s application of his medical knowledge to what most consider common information allows the reader to view the world in a new light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The human body is an incredible thing, as author Kenneth Kamler demonstrates in his novel Surviving the Extremes. Through his experiences in the unforgiving environments all throughout our world, as well as through the stories of others, Kramler describes how incredible the human body truly is and how the will to survive can drive anyone to overcome the greatest adversities. The theme of a higher power is explored in this novel, as Kramler explains that in some of the incidences there is no way people could have survived. The novel was very detailed and packed with action as Kamler described many different experiences that have pushed the human body to its extreme, although some parts may have gone into too much detail causing the reader to become overwhelmed with too much information, However, it is also not bogged down with scientific vocabulary words, making it easy to understand and follow. This novel would be a great tool for a student studying biology or anatomy and I would highly encourage making it a part of the curriculum in high schools that offer such classes. If you are not into biology and anatomy however the novel may not be of interest to you. Although it is 292 pages it was a quick read because it draws the reader in and makes them feel as if they were a part of Kamlers many expeditions. Overall the novel was a great piece of literature, keeping the reader engaged and on the edge of their seat, waiting to see what journeys Dr. Kamler encounters next. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surviving the Extremes by Dr. Kamler has got to be one of the most intellectual, yet easy to read books I've read in a long time. If you could mix medicine with adventure, you would get this book. Kamler engages the reader with his or others' tales of the human body surviving at the furthest limits of the Earth.  A great read and astonishingly large amount of detail. If you are at all interested in either thrilling non-fiction adventures, or the human body and medicine, this book will engage you for hours upon hours. However, those who don't find science or anatomy and physiology fun topics, they might find themselves trudging through this book at a very slow pace, as every event is described with high medical detail. Many people would like to see this made into a movie, but honestly, due to the multiple stories and huge amounts of detail, it would be best just to read the book. I'd find this book particularly useful in a biology class, as it contains a lot of useful information about human anatomy. All in all, a great read. I would rate this easily 5/5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surviving the Extremes by Dr. Kamler has got to be one of the most intellectual, yet easy to read books I've read in a long time. If you could mix medicine with adventure, you would get this book. Kamler engages the reader with his or others' tales of the human body surviving at the furthest limits of the Earth.  A great read and astonishingly large amount of detail. 
74JA More than 1 year ago
Jackson Anderson block 4 This book was packed with information about the diseases and conditions that affect the human body when exposed to adverse environments. The exploration of the impact of these environments on the human body was incredibly detailed and fascinating thus the book, for me, became a page-turner. Author Kenneth Kamler offers a graphic description of the various conditions that can affect humans exposed to environments which test their endurance. Being interested in medicine, this book was very alluring and honestly made me excited for the things I might explore in my future education. Kamler details afflictions like Pulmonary Edema, which affects people in extreme high altitudes.  He explores its symptoms of “bubbling” sounding breathing, frothy mucus vomit, shallow breathing, coughing, and swollen/blue lips. His narrative allows you to understand how Pulmonary Edema affects people physiologically as pressure decreases with high altitude. Then, Kamler dives into treatment options such as descent and a variety of medications. Finally, once you have a comprehensive knowledge of the disease he continues to explain why it affects certain groups of people more than others, such as the fact that Sherpas, who because they continually travel to altitude, have developed, through the process of natural selection, enzymes which keep them more acclimated to altitude than newcomers or “lowlanders”. Kamler’s detailing of every aspect of these scenarios answers any question you might have about the conditions people face and truly paints a picture of the educational level a doctor must pursue to be successful in what they do. This book is jam packed with other examples of humans dealing with the impact of adverse environments. Every page is riveting and draws you to read on. For me, this book motivated me to learn so that I could bring myself to Kamler’s level of knowledge. I would definitely recommend it to anyone regardless of their interest in medicine, as it is riveting to understand the limits of the human body and how it can continue to surprise us. In true Ethnographic style it immerses the reader into the world of a doctor, and allows full comprehension of the knowledge they must posses and the situations they are faced with in the jungle, the high seas, under the waves, in the desert, in outer space, and at extreme altitudes. The book brings excitement and education to the same level to allow you this insight. I would rate this book about an 8.5/10. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nathan Huber Block 1 Book Analysis Recently I read "Surviving the Extremes, What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance" written by Kenneth Kamler, M.D. Kenneth Kamler is a New York emergency room doctor who becomes intrigued with how much damage the human body can take before it breaks, this story follows Kamler as he travels the globe to some of the most dangerous environments, where instincts and knowledge can be the difference between life and death. This book makes it clear how amazing our human anatomy really is, Kamler goes into depth about the specific responses of the body to certain situations and the mechanisms it uses when it is pushed to great lengths. Kamler iterates the danger of the 6 scenarios he was put in, and not only learns new tricks himself, but teaches the reader along the way about the environment and how natives use it to their advantage. Major themes in this novel are quite obvious via the title, survival being the main focus, Kamler at one point in the book is accompanying an expedition up Mount Everest, one of the men had fallen 80ft and gotten himself wedged hand first between two thin sheets of ice, after recovering the man from the ice, Kamler notes that he has "seen healthier patients die faster in the Intensive Care Unit back in New York" (Kamler) but amazingly, the crew begins chanting and praying to lighten the spirits of the injured mountain man, and it works, he survives. The man makes a full recovery, further proving the resilience of the human body. I enjoyed this book; it kept me interested from start to finish, through Kamler's writing it was very easy to visualize what was happening and understand the dire situations he was put in. The only thing that bugged me was the fact that he used a lot of medical terms that I had to go back through and define simply because I'm not a doctor, but other than that, I enjoyed it. Overall I would rate this an 8/10, a must read for anyone who aspires to become some sort of medical personal.
Makenzie_K More than 1 year ago
Surviving the Extremes is a riveting novel detailing the journey of Dr. Kenneth Kamler as he treats injuries and illnesses in the most extreme environments in the world. Divided into regions, the book begins in the Amazon Jungle where Dr. Kamler treats the injury of a young boy who sliced his wrist with a machete. Kamler journeys into the high seas, Sahara desert, Mt. Everest, and into outer space. In each of these settings he discovers a unique medical problem and pushes himself to the limits to treat it.  The major themes included in the novel are the human will to survive, and the adaptions of the human body. An important message explored is that the human body can often survive solely based on the will to live, and sometimes with unexplained circumstances.  I enjoyed reading about the medical procedures he performed in extreme settings and the interesting adaptions and tools of the locals to these environments. Anyone interested in extreme environments and medicine should read this book. The book is filled with medical terms and interesting facts about medicine. Overall, this is a fantastic read that I would recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surviving the Extremes Ashley Smith When living in the most treacherous conditions without proper medical necessities, survival is ultimately impossible, but with Dr. Kamler’s faith, prevailing knowledge and curiosity there is hope. Surviving the Extremes by Kenneth Kamler is an inspiring book that contains realistic events that individuals are experiencing every day. Dr. Kamlers first expedition begins at the Amazon Jungle where he must dedicate his life to helping individuals survive. Next, Dr. Kamler explores the high seas by listening to the stories a man named Steve Callahan experienced. Then, Dr. Kamler provides information on how difficult but possible surviving in the Sahara Desert can be. After, the story focuses on a woman named Audry Mestre who participates in a deep sea diving competition where she tries to break her husband’s record. Dr. Kamler then familiarizes his audience with his trip to Mount Everest. Finally, the book demonstrates the extreme conditions of suriving in outer space. The major theme of this book I believe is curiosity. One shouldn’t read it if they aren’t curious about survival or what doctors must do to help one survive. I personally really enjoyed this book; it was quite a thrill forcing me to read more every sentence. I was fascinated by all of the extreme conditions and tragic events that occurred, and how the individuals managed to survive in them. I honestly can’t say I disliked anything about this book; Kenneth is an amazing writer as well as doctor that is inspiring to read about. I would not recommend someone who does not enjoy reading thrillers; however I believe that almost anyone could get into this book. I would probably read it again in the future based on how inspiring and enjoying it was to read it now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was actually the second time that I bought this book, having loaned the first out and nver seeing it again; so it's been a while since I read it. But, it is the best book I have ever read. An amazing mixture of medicine and survival skills, along with enviromental considerations. I would recomend this book to everyone, as what can be learned is soemthing that should be general knowledge, but it is still in depth enough that even those well versed in the subjects can still learn from it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DocAG More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for those who like science, medicine, and the outdoors. Kamler goes into great detail about the physiological processes the human body undergoes at different environmental extremes. He also has a knack for making this interesting so that the book doesn't read like a textbook. This book is great for the scientifically and medically minded. However, the book may drag a little for some laypersons. Like I said, Kamler makes it as interesting as possible. But, while there is adventure here, the book is primarily a science book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading about Kenneth's' visits to the Amazon forest, underwater caves, and the top of Mount Everest, to name a few, you may be struck by the explorer bug too. Ken's main job on the excursions in this book is to act as main medical advisor, but thankfully, he is also a grade A writer. He recounts his trips; I will not spoil the book by recounting them here, from a mostly medical point of view. At heart Ken is a humanist seeking to find out how and why the few who choose to live in the extremes, (95% of the earth is uninhabitable by humans) do so. He goes into great depth describing the cultural and physical adaptations that people under-go. After many generations living a rough life natural selection has weeded the weak and stupid away leaving only the most suited for survival in any given 'extreme' area of the world. Don't let the title scare you off. This isn't a gimmick book that slathers its tile with the adjective 'extreme', this is truly meant in a most literal fashion. If you are intrigued by the inner workings of the ER or even the TV show ER, then I would recommend this to you. If you have read the best seller 'Into Thin-Air' by Jon Krakauer, you may be interested in the fact that Kenneth Kamler was the ill-fated expedition's doctor on the spot and he has recounted his point of view of the tragedy in one of the chapters. Some of the places you'll visit and learn the many ways you can die (and the slim chances of your survival): 1. the Amazon jungle 2. lost at sea (above) 3. the heat of the desert 4. the pressure of the deep sea (below) 5. the top of Everest 6. and the vacuum of space After you read this, you'll be able to amaze your friends with your knowledge of cannibalism and butt parasites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Kamler tells it up front and raw. Very exciting book that describes the physiology associated with extreme environments. If your an outdoorsman like I am, this is a must read!