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Top 10 Human Survival Stories

Updated on June 19, 2013

Amazing Survivals: Willpower, Fast Thinking and Luck

This article sums up the Top 10 most amazing survival stories, and they are amazing, even though they might resemble horror stories, because they show us just how resourceful and cunning Humans are capable of being.

This article took me around 12 hours to research and write, I invested my heart and soul into this and I hope you like to read it as much as I liked researching it.

I describe these stories without much detail, so if you're intrigued about a specific one, feel free to let me know in the comment section and I'll write an article about it.


10 - Alexander Selkirk: The Castaway

Year of 1709

Alexander Selkirk was the inspiration for the fictional character "Robinson Crusoe", and he was the "ultimate" castaway.

This Scottish sailor marooned on a tropical island where he had to survive by his own means and with what the island had to offer. Alexander was there for four years!

The story is so amazing that people didn't believed it and skeptics were everywhere up until recently when an Archaeological dig changed that when the dig site crew uncovered the remnants of a very old camping site on the said Island with a personal object of Alexander Selkirk.

These digs demonstrated how Alexander Selkirk survived:

  • He built a shelter near a fresh water source;
  • He built a secondary shelter on top of a cliff, where he could spot friendly or hostile ships approaching;

By now you must think that his ship sunk... Don't!

In fact, Alexander Selkirk got mad at the ship's captain and asked to be left on land.

Quite a story!


9 - Joe Simpson: The Unlucky Climber

Year of 1985

Joe Simpson thought ice climbers were simply stupid when he was 14 years old, but somewhere along his life path, that changed.

He became addicted to the idea of conquering the highest peaks and in 1985 he decided to go for the Andes and the Siula Grande.

Along the descent, something went wrong:

Joe Simpson tripped on a rope and fell to a crevasse... Yates, his climbing partner, believed Simpson was dead and he cut the rope, leaving him behind.

Turns out Joe Simpson was alive, but with a broken leg!

So, Simpson was alone in that dark crevasse, cold with a leg so messed up he shouldn't be able to stand, yet he somehow rappelled down the crevasse to its absolute bottom and exited the mountain by an opening in the glacier.

He dragged himself for three days and ate snow to keep hydrated. If this doesn't impress you, I don't know what will.


8 - Douglas Mawson: The Snow Strider

Year of 1903

Douglas Mawson was the expedition leader, Lieutenant Ninnis and Xavier Mertz were his companions and they were beginning the journey that would be graded as one of the worst expeditions in the Antarctic.

So, Mawson was on the middle sled, Mertz on the middle and Ninnis on the back sled, where the biggest amount of supplies was kept due to the many crevasses in that region.

However, Ninnis fell in a crevasse... Mawson and Mertz went running only to discover that down in the crevasse the only thing they could distinguish was the moaning of a dying "huskie".

Mawson and Mertz felt like their friend could be stunned and they took turns in calling him - for 5 hours.

They did some funeral speeches at the edge of the crevasse, and had to press on.

Supplies were running thin and they soon had to start eating the dogs from the weakest up. Their skin was coming off of their legs and they were starting to have lots of pustules and lip chaps.

On a dark day, Mawson awoke to see Mertz has gone mad... and he eventually died.

Mawson pressed on alone, covering no more than 5 miles a day due to his bleeding feet and he fell into a crevasse and climbed back up for 2 times.

He found out hidden supplies left by his worried fellow expedition workers and went on to get to its base camp, finishing this unfortunate journey.

Staying Alive: Read the Caption for Description

Average Days
Maximum Recorded Days
4 Days
13 Days
20 Days
44 Days
This chart demonstrates how many days can a person last without food and water. "Average Days" show the average time for normal men, while "Maximum Recorded Days" marks the maximum recorded time up to when this Hub was written.

7 - Commerce's Crew: The Desert Survivors

Year 1815

The Commerce brig ran aground on Northwest Africa and the crew wasn't pleased - there were many accounts that the natives capture people and enslave them, there are even records that they were cannibals, so the crew built longboats and went to sea.

Supplies didn't last and they had to do something they didn't want to... proceed to land.

When on land, the crew was captured by Bedouin natives and forced to march on the Saharan desert.

One of the crew's members even ate his forearm in delirium...

The crew eventually convinced a merchant to buy the captain and four of them to ransom later, and these still passed many robbery attempts and intrigue attacks by the merchant's father-in-law before getting to safety.

Poon Lim on his raft...
Poon Lim on his raft... | Source

6 - Poon Lim: Lost at Sea

Year of 1942

Poon Lim was on a British vessel that got torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Noticing that the boat was doomed, Poon Lim dressed up his life jacket and threw himself to the water.

He spotted a life raft and climbed onto it, little did he know that the raft would keep him afloat for 133 days, a huge "lost at sea" record that Poon Lim "wishes that no one can break".

He had some supplies on the raft, but not enough. He stretched a bit of canvas on top of the raft to catch rainwater and made a fishing rod, using a piece of biscuit as bait.

He caught his first fish and ate it, using the rest of it for bait. He was fishing with success now, and he would let the fishes rot on the boat so that he could attract and kill seagulls to eat and drink the blood of the unfortunate birds.

133 Days is a lot to spend in the immense ocean alone... Poon Lim is an excellent example of the Human being resourcefulness.

The actual map of Edurance's Drift
The actual map of Edurance's Drift | Source

5 - The Endurance: Riding the Ice

Year 1915

The Endurance was surveying the Antarctic, but got trapped in ice. The men tried hard to clear a path for the wooden vessel, with improvised pickaxes, the sailors went to land and did their best, but the Antarctic Winter was coming and soon it became evident that the "Endurance" was frozen for the Winter.

The captain ordered the crew to clear the ice surrounding the boat everyday to keep the ice from crushing the vessel, but the vessel was doomed.

The ship started to sink and the crew salvaged everything they could and walked away.

The captain decided they would have to search dry land so they wouldn't take the risk to be engulfed by ice breaks or melting, so they grabbed a lifeboat and went to Elephant Island.

Elephant Island was uninhabited and inhospitable as the crew decided they would have to go to south Georgia, but the trip was long and hard, and the life boat wasn't suited.

The carpenter reinforced the life boat as he could and a detachment of men went to try the journey. They arrived at South Georgia safely.

Now, they would have to get help to get the men that stayed behind on Elephant Island, and they had a lot of trouble sailing there, as the ice glaciers were closing the path down.

When they got there, the men on Elephant Island had nasty frostbites with the need for amputation, depression and some even had heart attacks, but they were all alive.

They were safe.

Link is broken because the original file was deleted, will update once it is uploaded back.
Link is broken because the original file was deleted, will update once it is uploaded back. | Source

4 - Hugh Glass: The Bear Wrestler

Year of 1823

Hugh Glass was a pirate, but he got tired of that life and went to pursue a career in fur hunting and scouting. He embarked on an expedition in 1823 with two companions.

Glass was distant from his companions when he surprised a Grizzly Bear with its cubs. The great bear attacked and Glass didn't had the time to pull out his rifle, so he pulled out a little knife and... wrestled the bear!

The ex-pirate won and killed the animal, but at a great cost - he was badly mauled.

The remainder members of the expedition arrived at the scene and saw Glass clearly dying from his wounds and John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger stood watch to make sure they would bury him when he died.

Three days passed and Glass wouldn't die... The men had already dug his grave when Indians were heard, so the men panicked and threw Glass to the open grave, covering him with the bear skin and leaves, leaving him for dead.

Now this is where it gets really amazing:

Glass regained consciousness to find he was alone, with the rib-cage exposed by his wounds and leg broken... he couldn't walk and he was in Indian territory.

Hugh Glass crawled his way to safety and ate berries and fruits... and he even ate a rotting carcass. His wounds were infested with maggots and he eventually reached safety.

He says that the only thing that kept him alive was wishing for revenge on those two that left him for dead. Eventually he found them, but didn't kill them.

He died in battle against the Indians later on...

Poll Time

Were you surprised by what humans can endure so far?

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3 - Aron Ralston: 127 Hours

Year of 2003

Aron Ralston was climbing when he got his arm stuck in a canyon where he stayed for 127 hours trying to get it out and waiting for help.

Now, I'm sure you know this story as there is even a movie about it called 127 Hours.

When Aron realized that help wasn't coming and that he would soon die, he grabbed his blunt knife, he wrapped fabric on his arm to stop him from bleeding out and cut his own arm off.

Now, he was free... but weak, and he still had to climb to safety.

He made it and he is now a motivational speaker. If you didn't saw the movie, I would advise you to do it.


2 - Juliane Koepcke: The Teenage Miracle

Year 1971

Juliene Koepcke was on board of flight 508 above the jungles of Peru, the same flight that got its fuselage stripped to half by a lightning bolt.

The plane fell from the sky and Juliene Koepcke regained her conscience still on her plane's chair amid the thick forest we all know it's no paradise. She was 17 years old when that happened.

So, she scrapped the airplane for supplies and started walking, drinking river water and fighting infection and diseases, fighting her wounds - that were severe - she avoided all kinds of man-hunting animals on the rain forest and managed to reach a logging camp.

Of all the passengers in the airplane, July was the only survivor.

Her airplane crashed and she lived... what a tale.

The crash site's memorial
The crash site's memorial | Source

1 - Flight 571: The Survivors

Year 1972.

Flight 571 crashes on the Andes.

I think most of you know this tragic story. Many passengers survived and scrapped the airplane for supplies.

The days went passing by and hunger started to squeeze them, so they started to cut benches open to try to find edible straw, only to find synthetic foam... they even ate their leather pouches, even knowing that the chemicals they are treated with are harmful.

But the day had come when they had to make the decision of resorting to cannibalism.

They kept themselves alive by eating the remains of their classmates and friends that died in the crash and were preserved by the snow.

They were found after 72 days.

This...was a horror story.

How to Start a Fire: Start Learning


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    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 3 years ago from Torres Novas

      I Love the Hugh Glass story.


    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      This is fascinating! As a child, I often had fantasies of going on a survival trip, but as an adult, I'm too much of a realist for that.

      I knew the stories about Flight 571, Juliane Koepcke, Hugh Glass and Joe Simpson. My brother gave me the book about Aron Ralston; it turns out all his life he was greatly prone to getting himself into nasty fixes. In some instances, he lost friendships because of it.

      The story that impresses me the most is Poon Lim.

      P.S. The easiest way to start a fire is to throw a heated match out the window.

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 3 years ago from Torres Novas

      Hello Rodric, thanks for stopping by!

      As you can see, the writing on this one is already improved! :D

      See you around.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Yuk! This had me gagging! It is truly strange the things we will do to survive. No one thinks he will amputate his arm or eat another person in a pinch until it happens.

      God bless those people. They have to live with what happened and justify it in their minds for the rest of their lives.

      Voted Up!

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 4 years ago from Torres Novas

      Indeed I am

    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      Hey Rui,

      Just curious, are you from Torres Novas in the Concelho de Santarem?

      Don't worry, I'm not a stalker! I live nearby.

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 4 years ago from Torres Novas

      I agree, I have to watch that... I didn't

    • Muttface profile image

      Muttface 4 years ago from Portugal

      I watched 'Touching the Void'. An extremely disturbing documentary. I remember his tortured face when he says something like "Caves are dark places, they are not meant for humans." He was so brave, making the decision to go deeper into the dark place with no idea how much worse it could get.

      Nice hub by the way.

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Glad you liked it! Yeah lot's of work went into this one... One should also mention luck is fundamental too :)

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Thank you for sharing and for stopping by... wish you the best Mike

    • FreezeFrame34 profile image

      FreezeFrame34 5 years ago from Charleston SC


      Amazing hub!

      Love the stories- I can tell how much hard work and time you put into this research.

      This is definitely motivation for all of us to realize that our problems are small and trifling with the realm of these empowering tales!

      It's true that with a strong mind and the power to never give up despite how bleak it may seem, we will survive and be able to tell our tale!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 5 years ago from London

      I only knew the stories of Aron Larston and of the Survivors from the flight 571. I've watched the moves based on these stories actually. Great hub, voted up and shared!

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Yesterday I went to see "The Impossible" on the cinemas, about the Big Tsunami.... what a story...

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Thank you very much for the vote and sharing... awesome!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Fascinating survival stories!! And very well researched!! A great write, which I vote up and share.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Our survival instinct is very strong and these stories are certainly proof of that. Excellent hub.

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Thanks Mr. Apprentice Alum :p...

      See you around

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Fascinating and inspirational hub. Good job and good use of photos.

    • Rui Carreira profile image

      Rui Carreira 5 years ago from Torres Novas

      Hello Survivor Jack!

      Thanks for commenting on this article, I'm glad you liked it and it was a pleasure seeing you around, thanks for the handful of survival tips you brought us here.

      Hope to see you around.

    • Jack Jobe profile image

      Jack Jobe 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      This is an amazing collection of stories of what real humans have endured. The key is to be ready psychologically - and skills wise. My first suggestion is Always to Learn 1st Aid - You are your doctor till help arrives. Second, Know Survival Basics. Third, what do you carry on you which could help you in an Emergency? Whistle, knife, emergency blanket, poncho, dust mask, spare water & food? "Survivor Jack™"