Recently I was reading about the upcoming Ridley Scott-directed film The Martian. The film, released in November, will tell the tale of astronaut Mark Watney trying to survive after being mistakenly abandoned on Mars by his crew. In the film, Watney needs to rely on his wits, knowledge and meager supplies to not only survive, but let Earth know he's still very much alive, and it was this survival theme that got me thinking about other feats of human endurance. After all it is truly amazing how far the human body can be tested when it's under the pressure to survive.
They may not be surviving on Mars, but read through these 5 amazing real life survival tales, and marvel at how much humans can endure when it counts:
1. 5 days trapped within a canyon
In 2003, canyoneer Aron Ralston literally became trapped between a rock and a hard place when his arm became pinned between a boulder and the wall of a slot canyon. After being trapped for 127 hours (a crazy 5 days and seven hours), and being forced to drink his own urine to survive, Ralston managed to amputate his own arm using a small, dull knife and escape death in the process. In 2010, Danny Boyle directed the film 127 Hours about the ordeal, starring James Franco as Aron Ralston, and the film earned six Academy Award nominations.
2. Forced to subsist off of human flesh
In 1973, an Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes mountains and managed to survive 72 days in the remote mountains before being rescued. The group were only rescued after two passengers made a 10-day trek across the Andes before finding someone who could alert authorities. Sadly, there were 29 fatalities over the duration of the ordeal, and in order for the remaining 16 survivors to stay alive and not to starve to death they partook in cannibalism. Survivors of the crash have written books about their time on the mountain, and in 1993 the movie Alive was released, documenting the group's survival against all odds.
3. Triumphing over not one but two disasters
In 1985, climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to be the first to scale the West Face of Siula Grande in the Andes. After successfully scaling the mountain, Joe Simpson shattered his right leg on the descent, and with dwindling supplies, the two needed to descend the mountain as quick as possible. Tying ropes together Yates lowered Simpson down the North Ridge, but after running into trouble Yates made the decision to cut the rope that connected him to his injured friend, meaning he could descend and escape the oncoming cold weather, even though it meant he was essentially killing his friend who fell into a crevasse. However, as it turned out, Simpson survived the fall and in an amazing feat of endurance somehow managed to crawl back to camp on his own. Eventually, Simpson wrote a book about his journey and it was made into a documentary in 2003.
4. 13 days in hell couldn't deter him
In 1982 New Zealand mountaineer Mark Inglis and his climbing partner Philip Doole were stuck in a snow cave on 12, 218ft high Mt. Cook, for 13 days due to an intense blizzard. When the two were rescued they were badly frost bitten, and as a result both of Inglis' legs were amputated below the knee. Undeterred by his disability, Mark Inglis has since gone on to successfully climb not only Mt. Cook as a double amputee, but also the 26,906ft high Cho Oyu, and in 2006 became the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mt. Everest after a 40 day climb.
5. A vacation turns into a jungle nightmare
In 1971, while 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke was traveling with her mother to meet her father in Pucallpa, Peru, their plane was struck by lighting and broke up in mid-air. Koepcke fell 10,000 feet to the ground still strapped in her seat. The high school student managed to survive the fall but sustained a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm, and swollen right eye. Able to find some candy and locate a small stream, she relied on the survival knowledge she had gained from her father that trekking downstream should eventually lead to civilization. After 10 days of walking and swimming through the Peruvian jungle, Koepcke eventually found a boat and shelter and used gasoline from the boats to extract 35 maggots from her arm injury before she was found by lumbermen. After a seven-hour canoe ride, and an airlift to hospital she was reunited with her father. Sadly, Juliane's mother did not make it.