I recently viewed the film 127 Hours starring James Franco. For those of you who have not heard about the movie, it is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who survived six days of being trapped in the mountains of Robber’s Roost, Utah. As Aron was traversing the mountains, he fell into a crevice and had his arm pinned between a boulder and the mountain wall (his autobiography is entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place). After several failed escape attempts, Aron eventually realizes that he will have to sever his own arm in order to free himself.
Since this film is essentially a dramatic account of a real survival story, the science portrayed is factual albeit with some liberties taken by the producer. I was intrigued by the way in which Aron was able to use survival techniques in order to stay alive, so I decided to look into them a little further.
The first problem that Aron faced was his lack of water and food. He had one protein bar and one canteen of water to survive off of. I did some research on dehydration and found out that the movie was pretty accurate in the way that they portrayed Aron’s struggles. Obviously there are a lot of factors that are at play in determining how much water and food the body demands. Amounts can vary based on metabolism, climate of surrounding area, physical exertion, etc. Some of the effects of severe dehydration are hallucinations, muscle spasms, and fatigue or weakness. Aron experienced all three of these symptoms. Another way that Aron fought dehydration was by drinking his own urine. I had always heard that drinking urine could actually cause one to become hydrated due to its salt content, but after some research I found out that I was incorrect. One can drink his or her own urine if there is no other viable source of hydration. It will have short term benefits but may put extra strain on the kidneys.
Another scene in the movie that I thought was interesting was the scene in which Aron has to amputate his own arm. At first he attempts to cut it off using a generic Swiss army knife, but the blade is too dull to even cut the surface of the skin. In the end, he decides to break his arm using only the leverage provided by the boulder and the torque of his body. He then manages to cut through the tendons and ligaments with the crude knife. It was a decidedly gruesome scene, but the producer did an excellent job in his depiction of the amputation. It was also interesting to see the tourniquet that Aron fashioned out of the plastic tube from his Camelback and his climbing carabiner.
This movie was excellent in terms of its scientific accuracy. It was also very enjoyable from an entertainment standpoint. I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, etc.