Against all odds- 3 amazing stories of survival

1.      Lost in the rainforest

   On the Christmas Eve of 1971, 17- year old Juliane Köpcke and her mother took a flight to Peru to see her father, a famous zoologist working in the rainforest there. The airline they used, LANSA, had a bad reputation, but they desperately wanted to spend Christmas with Juliane's father.

  At first, everything went smoothly. 25 minutes into the flight, however, the plane flew into some dense, dark clouds and suddenly started to shake. Then, Juliane and her mother saw a bright flash of light to their right and felt the plane suddenly tilt forward into a nosedive. The frightened passengers started screaming as their Christmas presents and other items were flying around chaotically in the plane. After a few terrifying moments, the airplane exploded and fell apart in midair. Juliane was thrown out of the plane by the force of the explosion. She felt herself spinning around in the air and lost consciousness.

  When Juliane came to, she found herself in the middle of the dense rainforest, still strapped into her seat. Her right eye was swollen shut, her collarbone was broken and her body was covered in bruises and cuts. Her mother was nowhere to be found. She was completely alone, the only survivor amidst the wreckage.

  Fortunately, Juliane remembered the advice her father had given her on surviving in the wilderness. He had advised her to follow water downstream to find civilization. Luckily, she found a stream of water nearby and started walking downstream. 

  She trekked through the knee-deep water, battling exhaustion, sleep deprivation and starvation. A fly laid eggs into her wounds, which then became infested with maggots. Sometimes she saw a crocodile, but thanks to what her father had taught her, she knew not to fear them as they rarely attack humans.

  After an incredible 9 days without sleep, food and shelter, she finally reached a small cabin. She sat down and waited for the owners to come. A couple hours later, the lumbermen staying there returned and got her back to safety. She later found out that her mother had died alongside all the other 92 passengers and crew on the flight. Juliane now works as a librarian in Germany and lives a calm life.

2.      Alone on the ocean

   On January 29, 1982, Steven Callahan, sailor and marine architect, went sailing on the Atlantic ocean on a boat he had built himself, the Napoleon Solo. He wanted to travel from Canary Islands to the Caribbean. But nature had other plans. 6 days into his journey, his boat capsized and he was forced to abandon it.

  Steven was now alone, drifting out on the ocean in his lifeboat. He had a solar device that distills water, 8 pints of water and 3 pounds of food. He decided to make the situation as normal as possible and set up a daily routine for himself. Every morning he would exercise and spend the rest of the day finding creative ways to measure time and distance.

  Pretty soon, he ran out of food. Alone, starving, lost and sunburnt by the harsh tropical sun, it was not easy to keep up his spirits. But Steven found some company and nourishment in the form of a large pack of fish that followed him across the ocean. He made a spear and could catch them, solving the food problem.

  However, the fish were clever. Eventually they learned to stay at a perfect distance from him, where his spear could not reach. He had to find another way. He discovered that if he pressed his knees on the bottom of the boat, the fish gathered around the bottom, and he could catch some. Despite the danger Steven posed, the fish never abandoned him. There were some fish that weren't as friendly though - he had to fight off several sharks with his spear.

  With no way of making his presence known, he had to watch 9 ships pass him by without noticing him. But Steven still had hope of surviving and held on for an incredible 2 and a half months, longer than anyone else had ever survived adrift on the ocean.

  In the end, he had the pack of fish following him to thank for his survival. Not only did they provide him with food and company, they also caused birds to gather around his lifeboat. A fishing boat saw the birds, and assumed there would be fish there. That caused them to find Steven and get him to safety.

  Steven has written a book about his adventure called "Adrift". He has also used what he learned from his experience to invent several different lifeboats to help other sailors survive similar situations.

3.     The attack that changed his life

   Paul Templer was always an adventurer and wildlife enthusiast. He had spent years travelling the world to pursue adventure and excitement, before finally deciding to leave all that behind and start living a more ordinary life. He started his own business and worked as a river guide in Zimbabwe, giving river tours on canoes.

  During one otherwise ordinary tour in 1996, his life was changed drastically. He  was guiding the tourists down the Zambezi river, like he had many times before. All of a sudden, a bull hippo attacked one of the canoes, throwing another guide into the water. Paul rushed to help the guide, but the hippo now went after him instead. The animal got his head into it's mouth and pinned down his arms with it's teeth.

  He was pulled underwater by the hippo, but managed to break himself free and swim to the surface. But the hippo wasn't about to give up that easy. The animal attacked Paul several more times, biting into his foot and arm, breaking his ribs, and ripping into his back and chest with it's gigantic teeth. The hippo then left him for dead.

  Paul's wounds were so massive the operation needed to save his life took 7 hours. His left arm had to be amputated. The doctors said it was a miracle he survived. After the operation, he had to go through 2 tough years of rehabilitation and therapy. It was a lot to cope with and he battled depression the whole time. He eventually found the strength to move on with his life and live it to the fullest.

  He returned to the Zambezi river and, with a specially adapted kayak paddle, lead a three-month nine-man expedition which made him famous. Paul used the publicity of the expedition to launch his nonprofit organization called Make A Difference, which supports disabled and terminally ill children all over the world. He now lives in America with his wife and 3 children and owns a successful motivational speaking and coaching business.


Anonymous said...

Those are definitely some amazing stories. Thanks for passing them along!

The Reason You Come said...

Yes, they're definitely amazing and inspiring! It tells me how capable we humans are. Those three were determined to survive, and they did. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

My name is Michael Young and I am curious as where you get your stories and if you share them with others who want to spread them. Email me at

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. I'm happy to have found a site with so many stories.

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