Hollywood loves a grueling survival story. When Aron Ralston got trapped under a boulder for 127 hours, Hollywood leaped at the chance to turn his ordeal into a creatively titled feature film starring the Green Goblin. But there is no shortage of extraordinary tales of human endurance out there just waiting to be made into Oscar-baiting movie scripts, such as ...
5 Douglas Mawson's Antarctic Hell
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"The 17th time's a charm! Come on, boys!"
On December 14, 1912, Mawson and his two colleagues, Belgrave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz, were returning to base after successfully not dying for a few days. It was apparently one day more than the Antarctic will allow: Tragedy quickly remedied that oversight when Ninnis fell into a crevasse, dragging their sledge, their supplies, and most of their dogs down with him. They were around 310 miles from home.
In order to get back to base, Mawson and Mertz were going to have to trudge through a lifeless ice desert without shelter and only a third of the food required to make the journey -- not to mention the omnipresent threat of shape-shifting aliens and Kurt Russell's disembodied mullet.
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Or Wilford Brimley's diabeetus.
After running out of food, they contemplated eating their dogs, which would force them to carry their own sledge. Hunger soon put an end to that philosophical quandary. Eventually, Mertz died from cold and exhaustion, leaving Mawson to soldier on alone. Still, the horror of the Antarctic wasteland can't defeat a man who grew up in Australia. Suffering conjunctivitis and frostbite so bad that his skin, his hair, and the soles of his feet began to fall off, Mawson trudged onward.
Then, unbelievably (or perhaps totally believably), Mawson's sledge got wedged in the snow and he also fell into a crevasse, where he was left "dangling helplessly above the abyss, with his sledge behind him edging towards the lip." After pulling himself up from a frozen grave and surviving 32 days in the harshest environment on the planet, Mawson finally reached his hut ... where he was told that he would have to wait 10 more months in Antarctica because the ship that was meant to take him back home had sailed off only a few hours earlier, believing him dead.
"We hung around as long as we could, but the Mad Men season premiere is tonight."
Still, before settling down to the most well-deserved nap in the history of mankind, Mawson thought to send his fiancee back home a telegram consisting of the most badass understatement ever uttered: "Deeply regret delay only just managed to reach hut."
Dang. We know you paid by the letter, but seriously: How expensive were telegrams back in the day?