Survival. It’s man’s first instinct and the last line of defence between you and old mate Grim Reaper. As you lounge around in your couch with beverage in tow, we figured it’d be a good time to highlight those of yesteryear who have stared death in the face and won.
From stories of being lost at sea to eating bats and drinking one’s own urine to survive, these are five stories of human endurance which prove that your day really isn’t that bad.
#1 Lost In The World’s Largest Desert
If you thought Olympic marathon running was a test of the human spirit, spare a thought for an Italian policeman called Mauro Prosperi. In 1994 Prosperi took part in a gruelling six-day 250km marathon in the Sahara Desert when a sandstorm struck the race and took him way off course.
The rulebook told runners that in an event of a storm, they were to stay put and wait for assistance. Being the Italian that he was, Prosperi called their bluff, wrapped a scarf around his head and kept running through the sandstorm. Six hours later, Prosperi was so far from the competition that the only person to see his emergency flare go off was himself. He was alone and in one of the world’s most inhospitable places.
From then on, Prosperi drank his own urine to preserve fluids until he stumbled upon an abandoned mosque where he feasted on bats and decided to kill himself by slitting his own wrists. The guy upstairs didn’t like this plan and Prosperi was unable to bleed out because his blood was so thick from dehydration (don’t you hate when that happens).
Prosperi decided to put on his big boy pants and pushed on for another five days, feasting on lizards, scorpions and drinking the dew off leaves until he was found by a nomadic family – in Algeria, 300km off route.
Prosperi entered the race four years later and completed it without going astray.
#2 Left For Dead In The Australian Outback
Australia really is a land of hidden dangers. And we don’t mean the animals either. Ricky Megee found this out first hand in 2006 when he claimed that he was driving down an isolated road before he was set upon and hijacked by three Aboriginal men. Waking up confused and with dingoes scratching at him in his shallow grave, Megee says that the men had drugged him before dumping his body in the middle of nowhere.
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This was just the start to Megee’s 70-day trek across the barren Australian outback. He survived on frogs, leeches, lizards and cockroaches before he found a dam and stayed hydrated there until he was discovered by some jackaroos. Megee was pretty much a charred walking skeleton by then and the mysterious Aboriginal men were never found.
#3 Harrison Okene
You don’t know real claustrophobia until you’ve met Harrison Okene. In 2013, the skipper’s boat had capsized off the coast of Nigeria amongst the world’s most notorious pirate waterways. Okene was eventually found by divers three days later, in complete darkness and breathing through an air pocket of about 1.2 metres high. The video recording of his rescue went on to go viral around the world.
#4 Mistakenly Left To Die On Ice
Avid climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates loved a good adventure. In 1985, this brought the pair to the then unclimbed west face of the Peruvian Andes. This excitement soon turned into a dire fight for survival though when Simpson broke his leg on an ascent, leaving Yates to pull the pair to safety below. In sub-zero freezing temperatures no less.
Things would get even worse when a storm hit, making visibility a near-zeo and causing frost bite for Yates. Unsure if his mate was still dead or alive buried in the snow, Yates made the toughest decision of his life and cut the rope tying them together.
Simpson fell 45-metres but there was an issue – he wasn’t dead. In the freezing temperatures with a broken leg, he dug out an ice cave to ride out the storm. When that was done, Simpson crawled for three days without food or water back to basecamp where he was found.
#5 World Record Holder For Days Lost At Sea
This is a record no one in their right mind would ever want. Poon Lim was a 25-year-old Chinese seaman who sailed from cape Town on a merchant ship in 1942. Two days into the voyage, the ship holding a crew of 55 were torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat. As the ship sank, Poon jumped overboard and treaded water for two gruelling hours before finding a raft.
For an insane 133 days, Poon pitched his survival on some biscuits he found, a torch, flares and some fresh water. The experienced seaman worked out that by eating two biscuits a day and having a few sips of water, his chances of survival would extend to about a month.
Passing boats never spotted his make-shift raft and Poon continued to float by until he arrived on dry land. Poon caught fish using his biscuits as bait and also caught seagulls and sharks; drinking their blood to supplement his dwindling fresh water supply. And because he was having such a great time, he also tallied up his days at sea and went swimming twice a day to prevent his muscles from seizing up.
On the last day of his epic voyage, he spotted the sail of small boat and was found and rescued. He was found at the mouth of the Amazon River 8,000km across the Atlantic Ocean from where he had set sail.