When you’re out in the wilderness, the warm weather, beautiful scenery, and the distance between yourself and the stress of daily life in town may seem perfect.
But if you become lost, or if something happens that severely inhibits your ability to walk out, that fine day of hiking can suddenly become a harrowing survival situation.
Your odds of survival could depend on your ability to find food and water, build fire and a shelter, navigate the terrain, signal for help, and treat yourself if you’ve suffered an injury.
If something like this does happen to you, take comfort in knowing that hundreds of other people find themselves stuck in a survival situation each year. Most of them are able to put their survival skills to the test and either walk out to safety or be found.
We’re going to examine five different harrowing and yet true survival stories about real people who found themselves in a dangerous situation, but were able to survive.
Not only should these stories give you the confidence you need to survive, but they should also give you some ideas as to how you can survive as well.
Table of Contents
Steven Callahan Survived Lost at Sea in 1982
In early 1982, Steven Callahan decided to use a boat he had made himself, to sail from the Canary Islands into the open ocean. Unfortunately, disaster struck when his boat sank less than a week into the voyage. Mr. Callahan was stranded at sea in a life raft that was no more than five-feet long.
In terms of provisions, Callahan had only a few pounds of food and eight pints of water. It definitely wouldn’t have lasted the seventy-six days that he ended up being adrift at sea.
Fortunately, Callahan was able to use a fishing spear and a solar still on the raft to secure more food and water. More importantly, he was already well experienced when it came to sailing. He knew how to keep the raft from sinking, despite repeated shark attacks, one of which caused his raft to begin leaking.
Callahan somehow managed to keep the leak under control for the remaining month that he was adrift at sea. He was determined to make it out alive and he was finally rescued.
Watch Callahan’s story in this YouTube:
Ricky Megee Survived in the Australian Outback in 2006
The Australian Outback is a mystical land for many people. It’s a land of vast red deserts, high plateaus, a nearly nonexistent human population, and unusual (and dangerous) creatures.
In those regards, the Outback is easily one of the last places on Earth that you would want to be in a survival situation. But while the Outback may be one of the toughest and most unforgiving environments on Earth, it’s also not a foregone conclusion that you will die if you get lost or stuck out there.
To prove this point, in the spring of 2006, Ricky Megee managed to survive in the Outback for no less than 71 days. Megee became stranded in the Outback when he was drugged by another person, presumably a hitchhiker, who then stole his car and left him for dead.
Luck was on Megee’s side, since spring happens to be the wet season in the Outback. As a result, Megee had an easier time finding water than he would have had in the dry season.
He also managed to construct shelters to protect himself from the beating sun, and to forage for lizards, frogs, snakes, and insects to sustain himself with food.
After seventy-one days of hiking through the Outback and keeping himself alive in this manner, luck again proved to be on Megee’s side when he coincidentally stumbled upon two ranchers in what was still a remote area of the continent.
He had lost over half of his total body weight at this time and was terribly sunburned. But he survived and lived to see another day.
Check out Megee’s interview where he tells the story himself:
Yossi Ghinsberg Survived in the Amazon Rainforest in 1981
The Amazon Rainforest is another location in the world where you will not want to be in a survival situation. It’s absolutely lush and gorgeous, but it’s also incredibly humid, thick with undergrowth, gigantic in its size, and filled with just about every kind of venomous plant and creepy crawly creature that you can think of.
That being said, it’s not impossible to survive the Amazon. In 1981, Yossi Ghinsberg (who is now a motivational speaker) and three other friends, decided to explore a region in the Amazon Rainforest, specifically in Bolivia. The group of four split up into groups of two, with one of the pairs never being seen again.
Meanwhile, Ghinsberg and his partner were floating downriver on two rafts that they built. Disaster struck when the raft Ghinsberg was on collided with a rock and he was cut off from his partner.
Ghinsberg washed up on the shore of the river and was forced to travel through the thick Amazon Rainforest to reach safety.
Locals eventually found Ghinsberg’s partner and began the search for Ghinsberg. When they finally located him, he was severely malnourished and had lost much of his bodyweight, but he was alive.
Yossi gave an interview to the Discovery Channel, you can watch it here:
Aron Ralston Survived in the Utah Canyons in 2003
Most of us should be at least somewhat familiar with the story of Aron Ralston, from the 2010 Oscar-nominated film 127 Hours. In the May of 2003, Ralston was hiking Utah’s canyons when he decided to descend into one of the canyons. However, a massive boulder fell down at the same time and pinned his arm to the canyon wall, leaving Ralston trapped.
Ralston managed to live off of his food and water supply for five days, trying in vain to pry his arm out from between the rock and canyon wall. However, his efforts were futile.
Knowing that there was little to no chance anyone would find him deep in the canyon, Ralston broke his own arm with the leverage of the boulder, then used a simple multi-tool to sever his muscles and flesh. He then applied a tourniquet to the stump and walked out to safety.
Ralston’s story is equally as harrowing as it is incredible. But his willpower to survive and willingness to give up his own arm to make it to safety are what stand out the most. Just ask yourself, if you were in Ralston’s situation, what would you do?
Here’s Aaron describing the amputation:
And this is some real footage shot by himself during the tragedy:
Eric LeMarque Survived in the Sierra Nevada in 2003
The Sierra Nevada mountains of California are a region of unspoiled beauty. In the winter season, they are absolutely perfect for skiing and snowboarding.
That’s why snowboarder Eric LeMarque headed there in the spring of 2003. He certainly didn’t head there knowing that he would accidentally steer off the normal course and far into the wilderness. In a matter of minutes, the Sierra Nevada winter wonderland had turned into a frigid and unforgiving environment.
Over the next week, LeMarque would suffer from excessive exhaustion, malnourishment, and frostbite to his legs. On one occasion, he slipped and fell into ice old, rushing water and nearly died from hypothermia.
However, it was LeMarque’s navigational skills that got him out to safety. He used an MP3 player he had on him as a compass in order to guide himself to civilization.
When LeMarque reached safety and was taken to a hospital, both of his feet had to be amputated as a result of the frostbite. But even so, he survived and lived to tell his story.
Watch Eric’s interview:
Hopefully with each of these stories, you have realized that it is very possible to survive even in the most unforgiving of the world’s environments. If you’re just an ordinary citizen living in the United States, the chances of you being stuck out in any one of the above scenarios is probably slim.
If the survivors of these stories were able to survive for months and make it out to safety after being adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, stranded in the Australian Outback, or trapped in the Amazon Rainforest, what reason is there for you to not make it out should you ever become lost out in the woods?
The fact is there isn’t. And what each of these survival stories share in common is one thing, the real life people at the center of these stories had the willpower and the determination to survive. Yes, they possessed important survival skills and they put them to the test, but those skills would have been meaningless without the willpower to survive.
Aron Ralston had the willpower to amputate his own arm in order to walk out to civilization. Rick Megee had the willpower to trek across the vast desert of the Australian Outback. Eric LeMarque had the willpower to push on through the winter forest even after falling into a river of rushing ice water. As long as the willpower to survive is on your side, there is very little that will stand in the way of making it back to the safety of civilization.