Recommended book – Descent into Chaos: The Doomed Expedition to Low’s Gully

This true story of survival has been the subject of two other books and a movie. In 1994, a ten-man group of soldiers, 7 British and 3 Chinese from Hong Kong, went to Sabah, Malaysia with the intention of being the first ever to successfully navigate Lows Gully. Lows Gully is a deep chasm off the northern flank of Mount Kinabalu. Superstition, mystery and intrigue surrounds this place instilling fear into some of the locals. It was into this situation that these men went to create history.

The other two books that were written about this expedition came from four of the team involved. With regard to this book, R.M. Connaughton is independent. He seems well qualified to undertake such a task having a military background and actually serving in the Far East. At the beginning of the book, he provides historical, yet essential background information to Mount Kinabalu and Lows Gully. He relates the exploits of Hugh Low (whom Lows Gully was named after) and Spenser St John. In the 1990’s the attempt by Robert New and Steve Pinfield is also related.

With the background information, Connaughton then begins to describe the preparations for the expedition describing the building of the team and the travelling to Mount Kinabalu. Their is a photo section in the middle of the book and at the end there is a chapter entitled “Reflections” which describes some of the findings of the subsequent Board of Enquiry.

The book highlights the various tensions that existed between team members and tries to establish what exactly went wrong. Connaughton does an excellent job with this difficult task. The chapter detailling the extensive rescue operation that took place with the British and Malaysians deserves a special mention.

This is an excellent book and you can almost envisage the savage jungle terrain that is described as you read it.

On the whole this is a well-written and well researched book and I thoroughly recommend it.

A review by Mark R. Anderson (Co Armagh United Kingdom), courtesy of Amazon.com

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