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Sailors, Outward Bound and Confidence

It seems that British Sailors in WWII were often stranded in the icy waters of the North Atlantic after their ships sank. Doctors noticed, surprisingly, that the older sailors survived longer than the younger sailors

This didn’t seem to make sense. Younger sailors were fitter than the older sailors, and would seemingly be more likely to survive. So what was going on?

In 1941 researcher Kurt Hahn interviewed the older sailors. They had either been shipwrecked once before, or they knew sailors who had been shipwrecked before. The older sailors realised if they were in trouble someone would eventually come for them. They also knew that there were things they could do to help them survive in the open water while they waited. The younger sailors had no such experience or knowledge.

Hahn concluded that the difference was confidence and as a result his research founded Outward Bound— the first-ever survival school, which initially focused on building the confidence of sailors.

Story from an article by Kirk Fisher quoted in The Edge, an occasional ezine from Daryl Cook, Gillian Jones and Kimbra White, whom I met at the 2008 Australian Facilitators Network Conference in Bathurst NSW.

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