5 Insane True Stories That Prove Humans Can Survive Anything
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 ...
Douglas Mawson's Antarctic Hell
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.
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.
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?
The Marathon Runner Who Got Lost in the Sahara
The Marathon des Sables is considered by many to be the toughest foot race on the planet. It's a six-day, 156-mile marathon held in the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco, where only the most insane runners compete.
Enter Mauro Prosperi, a Sicilian policeman and Olympic pentathlete who decided to wager his life on this race, because what else was he going to do in Italy? Eat amazing food and bone beautiful women in the sunshine? Please: Jogging up an infinite sand dune sounds like way more fun.
Four days into the race, Prosperi had worked his way up to seventh place when a sandstorm arose. The rules of the race state that whenever a storm hits, runners are supposed to stop and wait for assistance, but Prosperi decided to screw that noise right in its decibel hole. He'd been to the beach before; a little sand never hurt anybody. He wrapped a scarf around his head and kept on running. Through a sandstorm.
When the storm died down six hours later, Prosperi found that trudging through the desert blind and disoriented had sent him so far off course that the flare gun he fired was seen by nobody but himself.
Completely alone in one of the world's largest and most inhospitable deserts, Prosperi had no choice but to keep on walking, even resorting to peeing in his water bottle to preserve fluid. Eventually he stumbled upon an abandoned shrine, but rather than get encouraged by this holy place, he made the reasonable decision to rip the heads off two bats, drink their blood, and slit his wrists. We have to assume that the shrine was to Dio and Prosperi had tried to go out in the most metal way imaginable to appease His Holy Diver-ness.
Miraculously, Prosperi was so dehydrated that his blood had actually thickened to the point where his cut wrists were unable to bleed out. When he awoke with nothing but a couple of bitchin' scars and a headache, he felt a renewed confidence and decided to fight for life -- although it seems like death had pretty clearly rejected his advances, so what were his options, really? For the next five days, Prosperi continued to push through the Sahara, eating lizards and scorpions and drinking the dew off leaves until he stumbled upon a group of nomads, who informed him that he was now in Algeria, 130 miles from where he was supposed to be.
So how did he live with his newfound zest for life? Prosperi went ahead and applied for the same marathon two years later. He was turned down. So he applied again. This time, having already secured the blessing of Dio, which grants a +2 to Acts of Courageous Insanity, Prosperi made it through unscathed.
The Man Who Survived the Australian Desert by Eating Frogs
In 2001, Ricky Megee woke up face down in the middle of the Australian desert, half buried, with a bunch of dingos trying to eat him. This was the first sign that there were going to be some difficult times in his immediate future.
Although Megee didn't remember how he wound up in this situation -- the last thing he remembered was driving west through the Outback -- this is likely just something that happens to people sometimes in Australia. What's a night out without waking up buried alive in the Outback as a partial amnesiac in the midst of being devoured by dingos? Boring, that's what.
After 10 days of Australia failing to kill him, which we believe might be some sort of record, Megee managed to make camp near a water dam by building a small shelter out of twigs and branches. This was where he made his home for the next three months, surviving on raw leeches and grasshoppers.
For the occasional treat, Megee would catch a frog, and, as he explained it, "I slipped them on to a bit of wire and stuck the wire on top of my [shelter], let the sun dry them out a fair bit until they were a bit crispy and then just ate them." If that doesn't exactly sound like a balanced diet: Don't worry! You're not crazy. It's totally not a good idea at all. While he was eventually found by farm workers and rescued, here's what Megee looked like after his ordeal:
So basically, expect the raw-leech-and-frog diet to sweep the fashion industry any time now.
The Girl Who Was Adopted by Monkeys
Marina Chapman was 4 years old when she found herself the victim of a botched kidnapping. The last thing she remembers is being grabbed from behind, blacking out, and waking up in the Colombian jungle. And because her father wasn't Liam Neeson, this story sadly does not end with a bunch of dead terrorists, punched wolves, and promptly rescued little girls.
Instead, Chapman was found by a troupe of carablanca monkeys, who actually took her into their clan, Jungle Book style, and taught her how to forage, climb trees, and presumably hurl her poop when threatened, confused, or bored.
After a few years of this, Chapman became an expert in stealing rice and fruit from nearby villagers, who would throw stones to drive her and her elite band of monkey thieves back into the jungle. Eventually she did reach society, where she used her jungle skills to run a gang of child thieves. The story increasingly sounds like the most ridiculous flavor of bullshit -- like blueberry, maybe -- but it's verified again and again by witnesses who recall the girl and vouch for her character.
If you're worried about the fate of this frightened and neglected little girl, don't be! Chapman was rescued ... by an abusive family that enslaved her and made her sleep beneath a stove. Jesus, she's two talking birds and a magic scarf away from a Disney movie.
Luckily, Chapman managed to escape her slaver family and took refuge in a tree, where she was spotted by a local woman who, taking pity on the child, sent her to live with her own daughter, who was glad to adopt Chapman as her own. Years later, Chapman would get her happy ending: She successfully acclimated to society and moved to England, where she married an organist. The church kind. He doesn't make her wear a vest and dance around in the street or anything.
She is, however, apparently still in a tree.
The Man Who Spent Three Days in a Lake of Shit
Seventy-five-year-old World War II veteran Coolidge Winesett once spent three days trapped beneath an outdoor toilet. There's ... just no pretty way to put that.
Winesett, a Virginia resident, spent his days in retirement how we all dream: poopin' outdoors. Or at least damn near to it. On one visit to his ancient wooden outhouse, this particular shit got real and the ancient construction gave way to dry rot. Initially, Winesett thought the collapse was an earthquake -- and then he just really, really wished it was, as it became apparent that he was about to go tumbling into Crap Reservoir. Winesett spent the next few days wallowing in what he affectionately refers to as "the Bible's hell."
Having lost part of one leg and the use of his arm after a stroke, Winesett was powerless to escape the maggoty pond of his own refuse. Although he was kept from literally drowning in shit by a collapsed sub-floor, Winesett would spend a solid three-day weekend on a half-submerged raft adrift in a sea of feces. During his ordeal, Winesett was forced to share the cesspool with rats, snakes, and spiders, which, while normally awful, were probably a welcome respite from the unceasing landscape of poo.
Eventually, the local mail carrier became concerned about the letters piling up in Winesett's mailbox, and he went to check on the man, whereupon he heard a weakened cry for help coming from the direction of the outhouse.
The mail carrier promptly rushed to help, and members of the volunteer fire department pitched in not long after ... presumably after the most high-stakes drawing of straws in county history.
For more people who are clearly Highlanders, check out 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator and 7 Fatal Injuries (That People Somehow Survived).