#2. The Drumming Man vs. the Kalahari Desert
Imagine flying above the Kalahari Desert, a land of heat, hunger, thirst and dangerous wild animals trying like hell to avoid all these. Pilots flying over this geographical death warrant dread plane malfunctions, referring to them as "landing in hell." Now, imagine your plane malfunctions. And then the crash cripples you.
And then the plane sleeps with your wife.
Such was the fate of Greg Rasmussen, a conservationist who ran into intense winds and crashed his plane, leaving him in the middle of the desert's Hwange National Park with his legs lifeless sacks of bone bits and gristle. Also, his radio was broken and he had no water. This is known as fate's way of saying "bye bye."
The disoriented Rasmussen crawled into the shadow of a tree to wait in the off chance that someone would find him. Something did. Multiple times. To start off, he was treated to the default desert greeting for injured strangers: two interested vultures perched nearby. When he didn't keel over and die peacefully, the birds took off, and Rasmussen crawled under the fuselage to seek shelter from the sun and inquiring beaks. This kept him alive for the remainder of the day. The trouble was the night.
"Stupid nature, quit trying to eat me! I'M SAVING YOU!"
Almost immediately after sunset, the desert was bustling with activity, most of which was directed toward eating or maiming Greg Rasmussen. First, a bunch of nearby elephants decided that they didn't like his stupid face and started stampeding at him. He survived by the skin of his teeth, as his panicked banging on the aluminum hull of the plane managed to freak the animals out enough to stop the stampede. Next, lions started stalking him. He managed to avoid their attack by recognizing the sounds of a lioness and repeating his drumming trick. The same tactic worked when a prowling hyena attempted to help himself to a Greg steak.
After 24 hours of exposure, pain and frantic drum solos aimed at the tiniest movement, Rasmussen was spotted and rescued by another pilot. When he arrived in a hospital, doctors were astonished that he had lived for even an hour -- it took 100 freaking operations to restore even some use of his legs.
"And for some reason, the doctor insisted on using this oversized novelty syringe."
These days, Rasmussen's legs are three inches shorter and nearly useless. However, his experience hasn't left an ounce of animosity toward the animals that so enthusiastically attempted to murder him. Instead, he is running an anti-poacher organization. Either the man is a saint or he doesn't want any of the animals that tormented him killed until he has tied them to a chair and subjected them to the most vicious drum solo this side of Led Zeppelin.
#1. The 47-Day Raft Ride from Hell
Louis Zamperini had a lifelong history of turning crap into gold: When he was a juvenile criminal who constantly had to run away from things, he just honed his running ability until he represented America in the 1936 Olympics. (He also stole an important Nazi flag from under the noses of Hitler's minions during the trip. He was that kind of guy.) In 1943, World War II was raging, and Zamperini was a pilot on the Pacific front. During a search and rescue mission, his plane crashed into a Japanese-controlled region of the ocean. Zamperini fought his way to the surface and was joined by two other survivors, Francis McNamara and Russell Phillips.
Do you see, Kate Winslet? This is how you do it.
A quick search of the still floating remains equipped them with two rafts, some paddles, a patch kit and a little food. All this amounted to little more than a prolonged exposure death at sea, but they decided to brave it.
On the very first day, the sharks came, big and bold enough that they touched the flimsy rafts while circling them. Zamperini actually felt their fins rubbing his back through the fabric, which isn't as sexy as it sounds when you're actually experiencing it. The following days weren't any better. Sharks floated alongside them like dogs waiting for a treat, poking at the raft and even occasionally attempting to jump in. Zamperini and the others solved the problem by beating them with paddles whenever they approached.
Just in case you were confused about the scale here.
Still, sharks were only a part of their problem. The trio was constantly on the brink of starvation. They got food however they could -- an unwary albatross that perched on the raft was immediately snatched and killed. Zamperini got into the habit of fashioning hooks out of leftover scraps and tying them in his hands for some Wolverine-style fishing. They even managed to beat a few sharks to death and eat their livers, because at that point they really hated sharks.
After 27 days at sea, they finally saw an aircraft. Yeah! Oh, wait, it was a Japanese bomber.
The plane attacked them six times, firing and even dropping a freaking depth charge at them. Zamperini tried to create another target by jumping out of the raft, which proved to be a bad move, as the ocean was still full of the sharks he had been maiming for weeks. After some underwater shark fighting and a raft repair session, the trio was left exhausted. Still, they weren't without morale: When McNamara died on Day 33, the remaining two refused to resort to cannibalism and gave him an improvised funeral at sea, to the eternal joy of the beaten and battered sharks.
On Day 47, the two survivors finally found land. Too bad for them that said land happened to contain a Japanese POW camp. Having survived aquatic predators, crashes, exposure, gunfire and the death of a comrade, Zamperini's reward was two and a half years of near starvation and daily beatings at the hands of the Japanese. However, he not only persevered, but survived, and even forgave his abusers.
Sally Peterson / Wall Street Journal
"I forgive you ... for punching like a prepubescent cheerleader with muscular dystrophy."
Having depleted his stash of shitty karma, Louis Zamperini went on to live a pretty good life. He is 95 at the time of writing this article, and he has more buildings named after him than Donald Trump. Considering that this is a man who once spent a month and a half beating Jaws into submission, we feel that this is only fair.
For more tales that ought to put hair on your chest, check out 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator and The 5 Most Epic One Man Rampages In the History Of War.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 More Facebook Chain Letters That Will Keep You Safe.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the best way to protect your junk from bears.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up RIGHT NOW and pitch your first article today! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!