The most daring real-life tales of survival

Man vs. Wild, Survival with Ray Mears, Naked and Afraid – surviving in the wilderness has become such a staple of reality TV it’s pretty much a subgenre at this point.

Who amongst us couldn’t fashion a simple bow drill to start a camp fire? Or rig a tarpaulin into a rudimentary survival shelter?

Well, probably quite a few of us.

For all the bushcraft insights from former-special forces hosts these shows provide, actually surviving for multiple days or even weeks in a remote and unforgiving environment takes serious expertise.

Or perhaps superhuman will.

Because sometimes seemingly ordinary people manage to do just that. Injured, stranded, lacking food or water, these impromptu survivalists managed to beat the odds and come out the other side of a situation that would see most of us throwing in the towel.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: the human spirit of self-preservation is strong – don’t underestimate it.

The Peruvian rain forest

Julianne Koepcke was only 17 when the aeroplane she was travelling on was hit by lightning and plunged into the dense Peruvian rain forest below – killing everyone on board but her.

With a broken collarbone and nothing but some sweets for sustenance, she embarked on a 10-day trek through the jungle, wading downwater along a stream until she found a small shelter with a boat tied up.

After performing basic first aid on her infected wounds, she was soon discovered by a group of lumber workers who took her to safety.

Bluejohn Canyon, Utah

Documented in the 2010 movie 127 Hours, Aron Ralston’s arm became wedged between boulders after suffering a fall into a canyon while exploring this national park alone.

After being trapped for five days with only a small amount of food and water he knew that help may not arrive in time.

Using a cheap multitool (which he later explained had come free with the purchase of a flashlight) he amputated his own arm to free himself. And then had to descend a 65-foot canyon wall with only one hand.

Big Sur, Southern California

Sometimes survival can be a lot closer to home.

Angela Hernandez was driving on coastal route Highway 1, Southern California, when her car veered off the edge of the road and tumbled 200-feet down to an isolated and rocky beach.

Although relatively close to civilisation, the drivers roaring past above could not see or hear her. And her injuries – including a brain haemorrhage, fractured ribs and collapsed lung – meant she needed help fast.

She walked for days – surviving by using a hose from her car to collect freshwater from moss along the shore – before she was eventually discovered by hikers.

The Helambu Trail, Nepal

A series of poor decisions led James Scott to become isolated from his travelling companions while trekking through the Himalayas in 1991. Not least of which was splitting off from the only hiker in the group who had a map and a lighter.

He soon became stranded in a small creek between two impassable mountains – with two chocolate bars his only food. But despite the odds, he managed to survive for 43 days – quickly consuming the chocolate over the first few days, before living on melted snow and a sole caterpillar he found crawling over the rocks.

When a rescue helicopter flew overhead, he was almost too weak to wave.