The world’s greatest survival stories
Three days in an air pocket of a sunken boat
When a tugboat capsized off the coast of Nigeria in May 2013, it was assumed all 12 occupants had perished so it took three days to assemble a dive crew to descend and retrieve the bodies. However, they were astounded to find the ship’s cook, Okene Harrison was still alive.
He had spent three days in a pitch black pocket of air in the bowels of the ship, over 30m from the ocean’s surface, reportedly listening to sea creatures eating his dead mates.
He has physics, partly, to thank for his survival. Thirty metres under water, air is four times denser than at the surface, which compressed the oxygen he needed to survive for three days into an area it wouldn’t normally fit.
Watch the video of his rescue below. Crazy stuff.
‘Gliding’ 1000m above Everest
In July 2007, top-ranking female paraglider Ewa Wisnierska was training for the world championships in northeast NSW when she and her fellow gliders were sucked into a storm cell.
The 35 year-old was rushed upwards at speeds of up to 20m per second for around one hour, to a height of 9900m above sea level, 1000m higher than the peak of Mt Everest.
Temperatures of minus-40 degrees and a lack of oxygen left her little hope, however when her parachute became weighed down by ice, it collapsed and she freefell back into the storm, where she awoke, plummeting at around 33m per second to earth.
Somehow, she managed to right her parachute and land safely, a little frostbitten and certainly worse for wear, but otherwise unharmed. Others who were sucked into the storm were not so lucky.
Watch the ABC TV documentary below.
Teamwork saves plane crash survivors
October 13, 1972, a plane flying over the Andes carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed, killing 29 people and leaving many of the survivors with horrific injuries.
A lack of food meant they were forced to eat the dead in order to survive, while freezing temperatures and then an avalanche killed many more.
After 62 days, Nando Perrado and his rugby mate, Roberto Canessa made a 10-day trek through the Andes to get help.
16 people survived the 72-day ordeal. They credited their survival to their teamwork stemming from their closeness as a rugby team.
The story was immortalised in the movie, Alive, and multiple documentaries. Perrado is now a world-renowned public speaker and author of Miracle in the Andes.
Watch one of the documentary trailers below.
76 Days Adrift
In 1981 Steven Callahan spent 76 days adrift in a life raft after his boat sank from what he believes was a whale impact.
He managed to salvage a speargun from the sinking boat, which, along with solar stills for producing drinking water and some other key items would lead to his survival.
He lived on speared mahi mahi and triggerfish and around one pint of water each day as he drifted across 3300km of the Atlantic Ocean to landfall at Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
Nine boats passed him by without seeing him and he faced sharks, raft punctures, equipment deterioration and lost one third of his weight.
He later wrote the best-selling book, Adrift: 76 Nights Lost as Sea where he described his view of the night sky as “A view of heaven from a seat in hell”. He also later consulted on the making of The Life of Pi.
Watch the documentary of his ordeal below.
43 days in The Great Sandy Desert
Australia’s Great Sandy Desert is about as inhospitable as it gets, which is just what Robert Bohucki wanted when he set off in July 1999 to traverse it by bicycle, citing a desire to find “spiritual enlightenment” in the desert.
The bike was found 15 days later, next to footprints leading into the desert, however search parties could not find any further trace of him and after 12 days the search was called off.
However Bohucki’s parents continued the hunt with private trackers and he was eventually found by a news crew after 43 days, about 20kg lighter but otherwise in reasonable condition given his ordeal.
He had survived by eating flowers and drinking muddy water from creek beds and felt he had successfully “scratched his itch”.
Watch the ABC TV documentary below.