Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stay Alive: 5 Inspiring Stories of Survival

I've got a little fascination with survival. The human instincts deep within us that keep us going in the darkest times of hopelessness. Modern society has numbed our senses to the very point that we barely have a trace of this survivalist instinct in us. Some days, the most work we do is lift our arms to put a hamburger in our mouths. That is why I find it so amazing and inspirational when I read stories of everyday people getting stuck in the most hopeless of situations, and still finding a way to survive.

1. The Andes flight disaster - In October of 1972, a flight carrying 45 members of a rugby team crashed in the Andes mountains, killing 17 of the members. Another 8 were killed by an avalanche a few days later. Rescue missions were called off after 8 days of no success, leaving the survivors on their own. Having no food and facing freezing temperatures, they resorted to eating the dead bodies of their friends and comrades. Eventually 3 brave souls, including 23 year old Nando Parrado and 19 year old Roberto Cannessa, decided to trek for 12 days through the harsh mountains, surviving by sleeping together in a single makeshift sleeping bag. Apparently only these 3 were deemed fit enough to survive the trek. Eventually, they found help which led to the rescue of the remaining survivors.

2. The Sole Survivor of LANSA Flight 508 - December, 1971, the flight carrying 93 passengers was struck by lightening and exploded in midair, disintegrating 2 miles up. Miraculously, Juliane Köpcke, 17 years old at the time, survived the 2 mile fall into the Peruvian rainforest to find everyone else dead, including her mother. Following survival tips given to her by her father, she was able to find a stream and follow it for 9 days through the rainforest before finding help. She is now a zoologist living in Germany who studies bats. Wild stuff.

3. The Miracle Girl - June 30, 2009, Yemenia flight 626 crashed into the sea 9 miles off the coast of the Comoros islands. All 152 passengers died except 14 year old Bahia Bakari, a shy and fragile girl who could barely swim. Bahia managed to cling to a piece of floating debris for 13 hours in pitch black darkness, listening to the voices of others around her as they drowned. Bahia is the survivor of the deadliest sole-survivor ocean crash ever.

4. Cougar vs. Ball point pen - Forget your rifle, your hunting knife and your pepper spray. The ultimate fighting tool of the great outdoors is ... a ball-point. A 65-year-old Californian woman managed to save her husband's life after fighting off a cougar with nothing more than a pen. Jim and Nell Hamm were hiking in northern California when the mountain lion pounced on them. "Jim was talking to me all through this," Mrs Hamm said. "He said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen and jab him in the eye. So I got the pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't want to go in as easy as I thought it would." Mr Hamm was taken to hospital suffering multiple lacerations and two cougars were later shot by rangers.

5. The Lone Tsunami Survivor - December 2005, a Tsunami in the Andaman and Nicobar islands off the coast of Thailand killed at least 1,894 with another 5,500 missing. Michael Mangal was the only survivor found after a wave picked him up off his island, threw him into the sea, and tossed him back onto another island (Pillow Panja) where he survived for 25 days off coconuts alone.

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