5 People Who Survived Completely Unsurvivable Situations
You are going to die -- ideally from old age or a sex-induced aneurysm, less-ideally from the Universe concocting some terrible, painful, inescapable fatality just for you. Maybe one day you'll walk onto a subway car, look up from your phone, and find it full of clowns. That sort of thing. Fortunately, there's no such thing as a totally inescapable scenario. Once in a while, a person finds themselves face to face with Death ... and decides to yank the Grim Reaper's robe up and give him a wedgie so violent that even his bony fingers will struggle to pluck the cotton out of his otherworldly crevice.
A Paraglider Naps Her Way Across The Upper Atmosphere
In February 2007, German paraglider Ewa Wisnerska was sucked into an unexpected thunderstorm in (of course) Australia. As testimony to the storm's intense hatred of flying people, Chinese paraglider He Zhongpin had been pulled into the exact same storm earlier that day. His lifeless body was later found 50 miles away. Not content with one victim, the storm nabbed Ewa mid-flight and dragged her higher and higher into the air. Wisnerska started from an already-unnerving 2,500-ft. altitude, but the storm was lifting her at a pace of 67 ft. per second. At 3,000 ft., her exposed skin was frostbitten. Her glasses, like the rest of her clothes, were covered in ice so thick that she couldn't even make out her own glider -- which the violent weather kept collapsing, so she had to constantly battle the controls to keep it in working condition.
At 20,000 ft., the air temperature was down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice encased her entire body. This was inconvenient, as was the lack of oxygen, which caused her to pass out. You don't really expect to wake up from a nap like that. The previous record altitude for a paraglider was 24,000 ft. Ewa blew past it and kept blowing. Geese fly at 27,000 ft. So did Ewa, briefly, on her way to 29,035 ft. -- which is the exact height of the summit of Mt. Everest. At this point, the storm started getting a little frustrated. It continued to lift her -- now to 30,000 ft. -- just to see if she could survive the cruising height of a passenger jet ... without the jet.
At 32,000 ft., the storm finally gave up and she began her descent. At 23,000 ft., Wisnerska woke from the most turbulent nap since the kid who slept through the sinking of the Titanic. Realizing that she had no way to brake or steer (what with her gloves and hands being frozen), she rode out the storm and hoped that she'd eventually land safely. Which she did, 40 miles away from her starting point.
Apart from some bruising and frostbite damage to her extremities, she was perfectly fine. This is probably because she was unconscious for an estimated 40 to 60 minutes of the flight. Your heart rate slows when you're out cold, and this likely played a huge part in her survival. That, and she's a Highlander. She has to be a Highlander.
Jacob Miller Sleeps Off Headshots
(Note: Some of the details in this entry come from the firsthand account of a man who got shot in the head. It's your call whether it makes his story less believable or more awesome.)
The Battle of Chikamagua in Tennessee during the Civil War was the second-biggest Union defeat after Gettysburg, with around 36,000 casualties in total. One of those casualties was Jacob Miller, who caught a Confederate musket ball between the eyes on September 19, 1863. Miller's Union allies thought he was dead and left him behind. The Confederate army thought the same and marched right over him as they pushed forward. They didn't know that headshots were something Miller could simply sleep off. After he woke up with a brand-new hole in the forehead, he realized that he was now at the back of the Confederate line. So he used his gun as a crutch and waddled along parallel to the fighting until he could pass back over to the Union side. Because his uniform was completely drenched in blood, the Confederates didn't recognize him as an enemy (or at least, they did their level best to ignore him in case it wasn't his blood).
After making it back to home turf, Miller was rushed to the hospital and promptly had the bullet taken out of his skull ... would have been a nice way to wrap up this entry. Instead, the surgeons shrugged and said, "Eh, you're probably going to die anyway." In fact, Union troops were about to fall back, and the doctors deemed Miller too sick to move. So it looked like he'd be left behind ... again.
Miller was having none of that shit. Instead, the man who had been shot in the face got up and started retreatin' with the rest of them. His face now swollen so badly that he had to manually lift his eyelid to see where he was going, Miller kept plodding along with the retreating troops, with zero intention of either dying or stopping. Eventually, an ambulance wagon got the hint and picked him up.
Nine months after the incident, doctors finally got around to removing the shot from his head ... at least, most of it. The bullet hole never really closed, and although Miller would go on to live a long life, he'd spend the next three decades literally sweating bullets, as pieces of the shot would occasionally make their way away from the wound.
A Man Elbows His Way Out Of A Watery Grave
In early 2017, Jake Garrow was plowing the snow from an ice road in Ontario, Canada when his skid loader hit an unexpected thin patch and plunged into the frozen depths, dragging Garrow with it. This is not something people generally shrug off -- the number killed in Ontario in the first few months of 2017 alone is a depressingly large one.
For most of us, sinking 100 ft. to the bottom of a frozen lake is a terrible way for our obituary to open. But Garrow is not most of us. As he sank, he scrabbled around for the cord release that popped the back window out (a design feature created exactly for this situation, because in Ontario, snow plowing is hardcore). Unfortunately, he couldn't find it, what with the being submerged in frozen water and the complete darkness and all. So rather than fumble around futilely while water rushed into his cab, Garrow smashed the back window out with his elbow.
Now he was free of his skid loader, but still had to swim 100 ft. through pitch-black, ice-covered water and hope like hell that he could find the hole he fell through. Miraculously, he managed it, and emerged from the ice with little more than a perforated eardrum. But it wasn't over yet: Garrow had to walk a mile to the main road in soaking-wet clothes with a wind chill of -22 degrees Fahrenheit and then stand at the side of the road freezing because not a single Canadian motorist considered his life-threatening situation something worth stopping for.
He only managed to get a ride to the hospital because a familiar contractor happened to drive by. Luckily, Garrow's story earned him some attention from the Canadian government. He says that the officials have contacted him since he reported the incident. Namely, the Ministry of the Environment has told him that he has to lift that damn skid loader out of their lake by June.
Everything That Could Go Wrong With A Spaceship Landing Did
In 1969, at the height of the space race, Russian cosmonaut Boris Volynov was flying a solo reentry into the Earth's atmosphere on Soyuz 5. He was returning after dropping two space-colleagues off on another ship, and unfortunately, designated driver gigs are as awful in space as they are on Earth. During reentry, the equipment module on Soyuz 5 failed to detach, which messed up the balance of the spacecraft and caused it to turn around.
This was a problem, because the heat of bursting through Earth's atmosphere was expected to burn away around three inches of the special ablator coating on the thicker side of the vessel, which had a good six inches of it. Unfortunately, Volynov was now screaming at Earth backwards, and the side of his ship facing the flames was a mere inch thick. Oh, and the screwy trajectory also submitted his body to nine times the gravitational force of Earth, making all attempts to fix the situation borderline-impossible. At this point, ground control was already busy passing a hat around to collect money for Volynov's family. Volynov was facing certain doom ... until he suddenly noticed something: The malfunctioning part of the ship that had failed to detach was also getting sheared off by the intense heat. Summoning all his strength, battling 9 gs, he managed to maneuver the Soyuz 5 to its correct position in the nick of time. Problem solved!
New problem: The ship's parachute had taken damage and could only partially deploy. Newer problem: The rockets designed to soften the landing had also failed completely. Soyuz 5 hit the ground like a meteor. Volynov survived this as well, but was thrown around the cabin and broke a number of his teeth. Newest problem: Soyuz 5 had landed in the Ural Mountains, far away from its intended spot in Kazakhstan. The weather outside was a cool -36 degrees Fahrenheit. He'd be dead long before rescue, unless he figured out something yet again.
When the rescue team arrived hours later, they found an empty Soyuz 5. Following a set of footprints peppered with blood and bits of teeth, they found Volynov warming himself in a peasant hut, which he had managed to locate by following a distant column of smoke. His only comment to the rescuers: "Is my hair grey?"
Scientists Witness A Volcanic Eruption ... From Inside The Volcano
In January 1993, a group of scientists from 15 different countries gathered in Colombia to assess the danger of the 9,000-ft. Galeras Volcano, which had erupted irregularly for centuries. Yet the volcanologists felt it was fairly safe. It had erupted six months ago, and no seismic activity indicated it would again. So 16 people ventured into its cone to gather samples and information.
Care to guess how that went for them? To its credit, the volcano waited until the most dramatic possible moment to launch the assault. An hour earlier, and all of the scientists would have been instantly killed as they stood right at the inner crater. An hour later, and they might have been at a relatively safe distance. But no, Galeras waited until they'd just stopped working for the day, and still had a sporting (yet slim) chance to get away. Then, and only then, did the ground start to rumble. Galeras erupted hard enough to send a 90-story cloud of ash, smoke, and gas into the air.
One engineer was hit with a blast of heat that reduced him to ash. Two others were instantly fucking turned to gas. More yet were bombarded and burned to death by the scalding rocks. When the dust settled (not really; still lots of dust everywhere) nine of the 16 members of the expedition had been killed, and the survivors were pummeled halfway to oblivion.
Dr. Stanley Williams, the leader of the group, was standing right by the crater's rim when the eruption came. He managed to avoid the heat blast, but was still standing in a maelstrom of white-hot boulders and assorted smaller but no less dangerous elements. Clearly, he took a rock to the head, instantly shattering his skull and sending bone fragments deep into his brain. He managed to get away, only to have his legs savaged by the next rock bombardment.
That might have been the end, if it wasn't for two of his colleagues, Marta Calvache and Patty Mothes. Calvache and Mothes had inexplicably decided to climb toward the volcanic eruption to check for survivors. They managed to locate Williams and drag him to safety. Apart from the burns, broken limbs, and shattered skull, Williams was fine. After they removed a piece of his brain that had too much skull in it.
When Mike isn't Mr Magooing his way through almost-certain-death situations, he's writing post-apocalyptic steampunk books. Follow him on Twitter.
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