The Sunday Age, one of Australia's leading newspapers, hasdevoted a page to The Third Man Factor in its June 28 edition. Thearticle, titled " Mystery of the third man" is written by journalist and authorLiz Porter. Here's an extract:
When John Geiger read Sir Ernest Shackleton's memoir of his1914-1917 Antarctic expedition, he was transfixed by the legendarypolar explorer's tale of his battle for survival. He was in awe ofShackleton's powers of physical endurance. But it was themetaphysical aspect of the story that stayed with him - the "unseenpresence" that, according to the explorer, had accompanied thethree men on the last harrowing stage of their journey.
The book chronicles the history of the phenomenon, recordingearly references to it in classical writing, in the Bible, anddescribing the first modern instance in 1895, when Nova Scotia-bornJoshua Slocum's 12 metre sloop, Spray, was caught in a cataclysmic storm on the first legof his attempt to become the first person to circumnavigate theworld. Ill and delirious, Slocum was visited by a "strange guest"who took the helm for 48 hours as he lay incapacitated on the floorof his cabin.
Geiger then points out the many cases where climbers claim thattheir "third man" helped them compensate for altitude relatedimpairment. He includes the views of psychologist Woodburn Heron,who explained it as a reaction by the brain in the state ofpathological boredom created in isolated and monotonousenvironments. He cites the "principle of multiple triggers" - thecombination of extreme fatigue, pain and deprivation suffered byAntarctic explorers - as a cause.
Ultimately, the author feels most comfortable describing the"third man factor" as a "coping mechanism". "It is a way for peoplewho are under great physical and psychological duress to cope withtheir situation. There is nothing more helpful to people undergoinghardship than a sense that there is another person there, helpingthem." - Liz Porter, The Sunday Age(click here for full article)