(Found) Short story about a single survivor on an alien planet, battling for survival while his own ship runs out of resources


May 23, 2020
A short story I read as a child in the late 70s/early 80s. I think it was in a book of short stories borrowed from the library. I cannot remember any words in the title or the author.

The basic story is that one survivor has landed on an alien planet in a small spaceship, and the main mothership has apparently been destroyed, and is in several pieces (along with the rest of the crew, presumably). The on-board computer is not being cooperative, as it intends to shut down the ship soon, in order to conserve energy for eventual return to the mothership. The chap firstly plans to work around this by severee means, such as drilling holes through the hulll to let in external air, etc. But he finally manages to persuade the computer to keep the ship running for his benefit (after it has itself ascertained that the mothership is in a bad way and therefore not recoverable).

The alien atmosphere can support life, but he currently goes outside in a sealed suit, where plastic compound is sprayed on the suit at both exit and entry, and then peeled off and disposed of, thereby sealing in any contaminents. But this eventually runs out, as does just about everything else he is using, so he eventually has to persuade the computer to let him go outside without the suits - I remenber that the computer was displaying contaimination alert, etc. when this happened for the first time, but there are no further ill effects.

I also remember that he constructed some form of wind turbine to keep the ship powered, as its own power supply was expiring; I think this caught fire when he tried to move the ship to a different location at one point.

Meanwhile, the chap has discovered intelligent aliens down by the local lake, apparently attempting to communicate by changing patterns on their large eyes; he attempts to use the computer to analyse this, and it runs out of printer paper near the end (the rest of the data just flashed by on the screen).

Eventually, the poor chap starts suffering from ill health, and the computer itself begins to malfunction (displaying incorrect information abot aspects of the ships operation). He finally exits for the last time (noticing that something was flashing on the compter screen, but ignoring what it says), and ends up dying in the presence of the aliens by the lake.

This was a really good story, and my description above doesn't really do it justice - but it was around 40 years ago, so my memory of it is now rather vegue. Does this story description ring any bells for anybody?
I've copied the answer I gave to this same question on another site:-

Shipwreck" by Charles Logan

A starship blows up in a nuclear accident in orbit around a planet of the star Capella, leaving alive only a few astronauts who were in the landing craft nearby. Only one escapes a lethal dose of radiation.

Isidore Tansis, the only one who is not sick, has no choice but to land on the planet, which is barely able to sustain human life - and once down there all his companions die, and the novel begins with Tansis having just buried them

He now has to face the fact that he will have to spend the rest of his life on the planet, with not the slightest hope of ever again meeting or speaking to another human being, because it is known that no other spaceships are within many light-years of Capella

Tansis suffers terrible loneliness and hallucinations, causing him to treat the ship's computer like a psychotherapist.

He undergoes hardships during expeditions to find food and resources and makes great efforts to communicate with the native sea creatures who "speak" by dilating their eye pupils. He dies lonely on a beach at the end.

Sourced from this review .. Charles Logan: Shipwreck ( M.J.E. / Writings / Book Reviews / Science Fiction / ~ )
Last edited:
Thanks for your response - this sounds like the story I was thinking of.

Unfortunately, I cannot edit my original post to indicate that it has been found - the Edit button is no longer shown.
Thanks for your response - this sounds like the story I was thinking of.

Unfortunately, I cannot edit my original post to indicate that it has been found - the Edit button is no longer shown.
You're welcome, as soon as I saw your question I was like
"I answered that over in Stack Exchange, I'll get my answer from there"

Don't worry about the 'Found' it's only the admin people who can do that, no doubt one of them will do so shortly