Brian is overcome with fear that he is going to die. The plane glides quickly downward, and Brian is suddenly unable to see any lakes on the ground below. Finally, he catches a glimpse of one and steers the plane toward an L-shaped lake nearby. It seems for several moments that the plane will not reach the lake before hitting the ground, and Brian looks out the window, seeing the landscape frozen around him.
In this moment, Brian surrenders completely to the knowledge that he is at the mercy of circumstance, giving up on independent action to save himself. However, the natural world intervenes in the form of a lake to give him fresh hope, foreshadowing the connection that Brian will come to experience with the wilderness as a whole.
All at once, the plane reaches the tree line, and Brian is again sure that he will die. Just in time, he sees the lake again and steers the plane upward. It hits the trees, which tear its wings off, and the crash throws Brian forward. Then, just before it hits the ground, the plane rolls through the air and hits the surface of the lake. Brian screams as the windows break and water floods the plane.
Steering the plane upward so that it reaches the lake turns out to be a crucial act of control that allows Brian to survive the crash. However, the natural world of trees and lake water quickly overwhelms him, depicting the balance between Brian’s actions and the forces of nature that will develop over the course of the book.
Underwater and terrified, Brian unbuckles his seatbelt and tears his jacket away from the plane. Free in the water, he swims toward the surface, certain that he will not make it in time. At the last moment, he reaches the surface and swims toward the shore, screaming and barely aware of his surroundings. He makes it to the grassy shore and faints in pain and exhaustion.
Again, Brian uses his will to survive to overcome the dangers of the natural world, but only to a point. He is alive, but he will not truly thrive until he learns to work with nature rather than against it.