Five of the Greatest Wilderness Survival Stories in History


Human beings are capa­ble of incred­i­ble things, espe­cial­ly when under the pres­sures to sur­vive. Eat­ing leech­es? Build­ing ice caves? Cut­ting off your own toes? Read on, my sur­vival-enthused friends.

Ricky MeGee
The last place on earth you would want to wake up alone is in the Aus­tralian Out­back. Well, it became real­i­ty for one man after he claimed he was left for dead in the infa­mous desert with no clue of how he got there in the first place.

On Jan­u­ary 24, 2006, Ricky Megee was cruis­ing down an iso­lat­ed road when he believes his car was high jacked by three abo­rig­i­nal men who then drugged and dumped his body in the mid­dle of the out­back. He woke up unaware and con­fused to din­gos’ scratch­ing at him in his shal­low grave. And so began Megee’s 70-day strug­gle to make it out alive.

Sur­viv­ing on a diet of frogs, leech­es, lizards, and cock­roach­es, Megee found a dam and was able to stay well hydrat­ed until he was found by “jacka­roos” or farm hands on April 6. By then, he was a walk­ing skele­ton and deeply tanned from the extreme desert sun, but he was alive. MeGee’s car and the mys­te­ri­ous abo­rig­i­nal men were nev­er found.

Joe Simp­son and Simon Yates
It was a beau­ti­ful day for climb­ing in 1985, as Joe Simp­son and Simon Yates attempt­ed to ascend the then-unclimbed west face of Siu­la Grande in the Peru­vian Andes.

Siula Grande

But the chal­leng­ing trip quick­ly took a bone-crunch­ing turn.

Simp­son broke his leg dur­ing the ascent, putting Yates in the posi­tion to get them both down to safe­ty in the frigid tem­per­a­tures. Mat­ters con­tin­ued to get worse as a storm hit, mak­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty dif­fi­cult and the descent even more dan­ger­ous. Bad­ly frost­bit­ten and unsure if Simp­son was alive or dead, Yates found him­self in a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion and he cut the rope.

Well, turns out Simp­son sur­vived the 150-foot fall, and dug him­self an ice cave to ride out the storm. After­ward, he bat­tled three days with­out food and water, and though he was severe­ly injured, man­aged to crawl back to base camp for help.

Steven Calla­han
This man of the sea found him­self in quite the predica­ment when a whale bumped his sail­boat in the mid­dle of the night dur­ing a lone expe­di­tion. Callahan’s boat, Napoleon Solo, slow­ly sunk to the ocean bot­tom and Calla­han found him­self strand­ed in his inflat­able raft with lit­tle water and a small num­ber of pro­vi­sions. Sur­viv­ing the blar­ing sun, bat­tling dehy­dra­tion and con­stant shark encoun­ters, Calla­han found solace in the dora­do fish that hung around his raft constantly—his “dog­gies”. Sev­en times he shot flares at pass­ing ships only to be left in frustration.

After 76 days and float­ing 1,800 miles, he was final­ly found by some fish­er­man who res­cued him, but unfor­tu­nate­ly caught all of his beloved “dog­gies.”

Aron Ral­ston
We all know this sto­ry; does the movie “127 Hours” ring a bell?

An avid climber and out­doors­man, Ral­ston embarked on what he believed would be a delight­ful day trip of easy hik­ing and bik­ing on the Blue John Canyon of south­east Utah. He was so uncon­cerned by the trip that he told no one where he was going. When he slipped in a nar­row canyon slit and became stuck with an 800-pound boul­der pin­ning his right arm—things got a tad bit unnerving.

After 5 days, his water bot­tle was bone dry and no food had touched his lips—his will to live was test­ed and he made the incred­i­ble deci­sion to ampu­tate his own arm from the elbow down using a blunt pock­etknife. After man­ag­ing to make it out of the canyon, he flagged down some hik­ers and was air­lift­ed to safety.

Aron Ralston
Self-por­trait of Amer­i­can moun­taineer Aron Ralston

Jan Baal­srud
Ok, folks — the grand finale. This is a pro-sur­vival status.

jan baalsrudJan Baal­srud was a young instru­ment mak­er who was asked to help the anti-Nazi resis­tance in Nor­way dur­ing WWII. Dur­ing his trip on board a ship in the icy Nor­we­gian waters, Ger­man sol­diers show­ered his boat with bul­lets, killing every­one on board except him. He man­aged to dive into the water, with only one boot and sock, minus his big toe that had been shot off.

Pur­sued by at least 50 Nazis, he was able to swim to the Nor­we­gian coast where two girls on the beach res­cued him. He had sev­er­al Nor­we­gian civil­ians secret­ly help him to reach safe­ty in Swe­den, but it took many attempts to final­ly make it. On one attempt, Baal­srud jour­neyed across the snow-capped moun­tains while hid­ing from pos­si­ble Nazi attack. An avalanche caused him to fall 300 feet and left him blind and severe­ly con­cussed, aim­less­ly wan­der­ing in the snow for days, plagued with hallucinations.

Need­less to say, Baal­srud was found and nursed back to health. He con­tin­ued to try and push for the Swedish bor­der again and again but was held back by Nazi sol­diers. He was forced to find shel­ter in ice holes where he end­ed up cut­ting off the rest of his toes to save his feet and at one point, attempt­ed suicide.

Baal­srud even­tu­al­ly made it to safe­ty in Swe­den, but not until under­go­ing a jour­ney through icy hell itself.