Survival Against the Odds
Men wanted for hazardous journey… Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition of 1914 would ultimately fail, but the hardy crew he mustered would still win honour and recognition for its ability to survive against the odds.After their ship Endurance was crushed in pack ice, the crew abandoned the plan to cross Antarctica on foot and the aim became merely to survive. Over two years, Shackleton led the crew across ice floes, then in lifeboats to a camp on Elephant Island where for six months the main group would subsist on seal meat and blubber.
Shackleton took five men around the island to the north and then across 800 miles of treacherous ocean to South Georgia Island. He then hiked with two others for 36 hours across the island’s uncharted interior to a whaling station with another three months to go before he could safely reach the crew left on Elephant Island.
He later wrote, “We had suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled down yet grasped at glory… We had reached the naked soul of man.”
Surviving The Death Zone
Beck Weathers survived 18 hours in sub-zero temperatures in the so-called “death zone” of the mighty Mount Everest, before miraculously regaining his senses and crawling back to camp. Upon his return, he was found to have corneal lacerations, hypothermia, and a severe case of frostbite that would later result in the amputation of both of his hands. His experiences are narrated in Jon Krakauer’s bestseller, Into Thin Air, which tells the story of the ill-fated expedition that resulted in the deaths of eight people during the worst climbing season in the history of Everest.
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Amputating your arm with a blunt knife is a task the average person would find virtually inconceivable. But on May 1, 2003, it was the only option left to Aron Ralston after an 800-pound boulder fell on his arm, pinning it to a canyon wall.
After five days, the little food and water he had was gone and it was unlikely anyone would find him in the remote canyon in Utah. In his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, he describes how he managed to literally break free, first using the boulder to leverage his arm until the bones snapped and then sawing away at muscle and tendon with his pocket knife. He then had to rappel down a 65-foot wall. He was walking back to his car when hikers found him.
The 33-year-old continues to climb, including all of Colorado’s 55 peaks higher than 14,000 feet, and is also a motivational speaker.
This man of the sea found himself in quite the predicament when a whale bumped his sail boat in the middle of the night during a lone expedition. Callahan’s boat, Napoleon Solo, slowly sunk to the ocean bottom and Callahan found himself stranded in his inflatable raft with little water and a small amount of provisions. Surviving the blaring sun, battling dehydration and constant shark encounters, Callahan found solace in the Dorado fish that hung around his raft constantly—his “doggies”. Seven times he shot flares at passing ships only to be left in in frustration.
After 76 days and floating 1800 miles, he was finally found by some fisherman who rescued him, but unfortunately caught all of his beloved “doggies.”
Three Months in the Outback
When a walking skeleton over six feet tall appeared in front of his jeep in April 2006, Mark Clifford, a farm manager on a remote property in Australia’s Northern Territory, must have thought he was seeing things. The skeleton was 35-year-old Ricky Megee, who had been lost in the outback for an incredible 10 weeks.
Apparently drugged and left for dead by a hitch-hiker he had picked up (though he also claimed his car had broken down), Megee survived by staying close to a dam and eating leeches, grasshoppers, and frogs.
While police and the public had doubts about the story, especially when it came to light that Megee had minor drug convictions, there’s no question he was lost in the outback, for whatever reason, and lucky to have survived.
Alpine Plane Crash
On October 13, 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed high in the Andes Mountains, killing a quarter of its 45 passengers, which included a rugby team, their family members, and associates. Of the 29 who survived the first few days at over 11,000 feet with little food and few supplies, another eight were killed in an avalanche that destroyed their makeshift shelter within the wreckage of the plane.Now without supplies or any hope of rescue, those who remained fed on the frozen bodies of their family and friends. After desperately clinging to life for over a month, two of the remaining survivors chose to brave the unforgiving terrain in search of help. They endured a grueling 10-day trek across the frozen wilderness, before they finally found a Chilean man. The man gave them food and alerted the authorities as to the location of the wreckage, where the last of the survivors were soon rescued.