For as long as humanity has existed, we have told stories of survival. The human body and spirit are capable of enduring extreme conditions, especially when a life is at stake.
Here are five amazing stories of survival that will inspire you to keep on keeping on when things are rough.
1. José Salvador Alvarenga: Lost at Sea
Jose Salvador Alvarenga is a Salvadoran fisherman who spent 13 months lost at sea. He’s the first person in recorded history to survive in a small boat at sea for more than a year. In November of 2012, Jose and another fisherman set off on a fishing trip gone wrong.
Alvarenga and his cohort survived without food or supplies by eating raw fish, turtles, and jellyfish. They also drank rainwater and turtle blood. After months of ingesting raw fish, Cordoba fell ill, Alvarenga’s fishing partner, and passed away.
However, Alvarenga survived for another 9 months alone at sea until he came upon a small island. By leaving behind his boat and swimming to shore, the fisherman met a local couple who helped him contact authorities. Alvarenga survived for 438 days lost.
2. Curtis Whitson: Saved by a Message in a Bottle
Curtis Whitson was rafting down the Arroyo Seco, a river in central California. He had planned to rappel down the oncoming rocks on either side of the waterfall with ease, as he had done many times. However, due to heavy snow and spring rains, the manageable waterfall had turned into a dangerous, impossible feat.
After three days of wilderness camping and finally reaching their rappelling spot, Whitson knew they were in trouble. The three of them were stuck on top of a violent waterfall in the California wilderness. Curtis thought he heard voices beneath them, so he wrote a message, stuck it in an empty water bottle, and sent it down the rapids.
After backtracking to their previous lunch spot and camping for the night, Whitson also spelled out SOS in rocks so it could be seen from an areal view. The search and rescue team found the campsite via helicopter because hikers underneath the waterfall had received their message and called for help.
3. Juliane Koepcke: Plane Crash and 9 Days in the Rainforest
In 1971, The plane that Juliane was traveling on was struck by lightning. As the plane disintegrated midair, Juliane realized she was the only one left alive, circling above the Peruvian Rainforest.
After 9 days of surviving on a small amount of candy, she located a stream in the forest. The insects in the jungle almost ate her wounds from the plane crash alive, and she was close to death. Eventually, a lumber worker found her in the rainforest and help get her medical attention, thus saving her life.
4. Todd Orr: Back to Back Grizzly Attack
Todd Orr was hiking in Montana’s beautiful Madison Valley. However, his hiking trip took an ugly turn when he was caught face to face with a grizzly bear. The bear attacked Todd, injuring him significantly, but not taking his life.
Todd was walking out of Madison Valley to search for medical aid when the same grizzly bear returned. Unfortunately, the bear attacked Todd again. Surprisingly, Todd was able to survive both encounters with the bear and live to tell the tale.
5. Danie Pienaar: Bit By a Black Mamba
In 1998, Danie Pienaar was a research student working in the Phabeni tributary in South Africa, studying the habits of white rhinos.
Pienaar was wading through a stream and was suddenly bit by a black mamba snake. The large brown reptile bit him quickly, and he knew that dying in the South African wilderness was a genuine possibility.
Against all odds, Pienaar made his way through the jungle and get into his car. He drove over 100 mph down the road until he saw another car and forced them to stop and help him get medical attention. Two hours later, he arrived at a hospital and was taken over by paralysis. Luckily, he was not in a coma and began to make a slow and painstaking recovery.
The innate human instinct within ourselves to keep breathing and beat the odds produces some of the most triumphant moments in human history: stories of survival.