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The 6 Most Insane True Tales of Survival

#3. Juana Maria, the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island

Like the mighty unicorn missing its place on the Ark, so too did Juana Maria miss the boat intended to save the last of her people from genocide in the mid 1800s. She was an islander on San Nicolas (off California) when the population was nearly wiped out by a group of roving Aleutian hunters from the north. The Aleutians killed nearly every man, woman and child on the island, and by 1835 there were less than 30 islanders left, total.


It turns out you can commit war crimes in a kayak.

A boat full of missionaries came to rescue the remaining islanders from getting murdered, and they managed to get everyone on board safely. Everyone except for Juana Maria. The woman ended up completely alone on the hostile island of San Nicolas ... for the next 18 fucking years.

After several failed attempts to rescue her, Juana was eventually picked up in 1853 wearing what one newspaper described as "skins and feathers of wild ducks, which she sewed together with sinews of the seal." The paper went on to add that "she cannot speak any known language, is good-looking and about middle age." She had not only survived alone on the island, but thrived there, actually outliving everyone else she knew (but more on that in a moment).

Missions of California
She designed her own pinhole cameras on the island, using only dolphin spleens and seagull beaks.

Ironically, despite her amazing individual resilience for almost 20 years, Juana Maria did not last two months once she reached the mainland. Her story was the inspiration for Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, thus serving as a romantic ideal for future generations of girls of what life might be like if everyone would just leave them the fuck alone.

Amazon.com
It was like this, only with a lot more piles of dead sea otters.

Oh, and what we said earlier about how she outlived everyone she knew? It turns out that her getting left off the rescue boat was the mother of all blessings in disguise. The rest of her people who fled to the mainland ended up dying almost immediately from the new diseases they contracted from their rescuers.

#2. The Aboriginal Adventures of Narcisse "Amglo" Pelletier

At an age when most kids are worried about hiding boners behind textbooks, 14-year-old cabin boy Narcisse Pelletier was dealing with human trafficking, murder and complete abandonment. The ship on which Narcisse worked was carrying hundreds of Chinese laborers to Australia when it ran aground off of New Guinea in 1857, and several of his shipmates were promptly killed by natives. Narcisse was one of only about 12 men to escape by longboat, and together they paddled around the Coral Sea aimlessly for 12 days, subsisting on sea water and piss.

Getty
"I don't care what you say. This is not part of a balanced breakfast."

They finally made land in Far North Queensland, Australia, and stopped for water before continuing on ... one man short. No one is sure exactly why they left Narcisse in Far North Queensland, home to the most poisonous everything on the planet. Then again, if you have ever spent a long time cooped up with a 14-year-old, you might understand the decision.

Regardless, this was where Narcisse's story started looking a lot less like Cast Away and a lot more like Dances With Wolves. Narcisse bumped into three Aboriginal women, who brought him back to their tribe. Narcisse was immediately adopted by the tribe, and for the next 17 years, he learned their ways and language, eventually growing into manhood and raising at least two kids of his own. Then in 1875, Narcisse was picked up by a passing ship. But by then he had become so in the zone with the Aborigines that he upheld their vow of secrecy regarding everything he had learned during the decades he spent with them.

Fishpond.com
Which resulted in one of the shortest biographies of all time.

He was celebrated throughout France for his heroic story of survival among the savages of Australia, but in reality he never wanted to leave, even insisting that he was kidnapped by the boat that "rescued" him and forced away from his true people. And his options for occupations back in France were less than spectacular -- a traveling show wanted to hire him as an Anglo-Australian freak. He opted to run a lighthouse instead, and died while still bitter about being taken from his tribe.

#1. Lucio, Salvador and Jesus Master the Pacific

With countless sharks, giant squids and 75 percent of the world's volcanoes around its rim, the Pacific Ocean is like Mother Nature's weapons stockpile. So when someone accidentally wanders into the middle of that arsenal, it's usually a safe bet that they won't drift back out as anything but a partially eaten corpse. But in October of 2005, three Mexican fishermen floated across the entire Pacific by accident, and came out just fine.

El Periodico de Mexico
Yup. That would have been our reaction as well.

The trio departed from the Pacific port of San Blas, Mexico, on October 28, 2005 to go shark hunting with two friends in a rickety 28-foot fiberglass boat. After running out of fuel, they got sucked into the North Equatorial Current, and without a radio they realized that the only way to get back was to go forward. Five thousand miles forward, to be exact, without food, water, gas or any playing cards.

With their lives now literally left up to how creatively they could navigate their way across certain death, they MacGyvered some fishing hooks and string using parts from their engine and stitched a sail out of blankets. They lived off of raw fish, seagulls and sea turtles, and because of a stroke of luck, they were rained on nearly every day of the ordeal. Or maybe it wasn't so lucky -- the storms were so bad that they constantly had to bail water from the boat and thought on several occasions that they were just going to sink.

Getty
"You know what, Salvador? I'd rather drown than hear you sing 'Don't Stop Believin'' one more goddamn time."

Nevertheless, the trio were able to survive in the heart of the Pacific ... for nine freaking months. That's 270 days at sea. Imagine you take a trip for Christmas and get lost. You think, "Well, we just have to hold on until somebody finds us." Now imagine you stay gone so long that by the time you are rescued, they are putting out decorations for next Christmas. All that time, in a boat with two other guys, getting pelted with rain.

The trio were eventually picked up off the Marshall Islands by a Taiwanese fishing boat. It was a confusing moment for everyone when they tried to explain what had happened, and the crew of the rescuing boat tried to explain exactly how far they had drifted. After the men were flown back home, they immediately went back to their careers as shark fishermen on a tiny boat because, after surviving that, what else is the Pacific going to pull?

Getty
"You ain't got shit, Jaws."

To learn more about the epic struggle unfolding right now for control of this planet, Jacopo asks that you pick up a copy of his book "Go @#$% Yourself!" - An Ungentlemanly Disagreement, by Filippo Argenti and check out its topic page right here on Cracked.

For more awesome tales of survival, check out 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator. Or learn about what'll kill you, in 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You'd Survive (Thanks to Movies).

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to survive 4chan.

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