Previous Next

Feature photo and photo above by Ross_Goodman.

Eight of the most amazing tales of survival ever written.
1. Survival Against the Odds

“Men wanted for hazardous journey… Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition of 1914 would ultimately fail, but the hardy crew he mustered would still win honour and recognition for its ability to survive against the odds.

After their ship Endurance was crushed in pack ice, the crew abandoned the plan to cross Antarctica on foot and the aim became merely to survive. Over two years, Shackleton led the crew across ice floes, then in lifeboats to a camp on Elephant Island where for six months the main group would subsist on seal meat and blubber.

Shackleton took five men around the island to the north and then across 800 miles of treacherous ocean to South Georgia Island. He then hiked with two others for 36 hours across the island’s uncharted interior to a whaling station with another three months to go before he could safely reach the crew left on Elephant Island.

He later wrote, “We had suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled down yet grasped at glory… We had reached the naked soul of man.”

2. Lost in the Amazon

“I was obsessed with the idea of exploration,” Yossi Ghinsberg told CNN Traveller magazine on the recent release of his book Lost in the Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Adventure and Survival.

It describes how in 1981, Israeli-born Ghinsberg and three companions set off into the depths of the Bolivian Amazon. When they realized they were ill-equipped for the journey, and lost, the four broke off into pairs; two were never seen again.

Ghinsberg and his friend Kevin were to float a raft downriver, but it caught on a rock and they were split up. For 19 days, Ghinsberg wandered helplessly in a brutal environment.

Fortunately, some local men had found Kevin and helped him search the river for Ghinsberg. Miraculously, they discovered him, alive and with a new understanding of his weaknesses and strengths.

Photo by *Zara.

3. Two Weeks in an Ice Cave

In 1982, Mark Inglis and Phil Doole were high up the slopes of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt. Cook, when a blizzard hit.

They built an ice cave and waited for the storm to pass, but it would be 13 days before help could reach them. They survived on meagre rations, but in the cramped cave they lost circulation in their legs, which had to be amputated.

This hasn’t stopped the men’s climbing careers. Both have gone on to summit Mt. Cook, and in 2006, Inglis became the first double amputee to conquer Mt Everest, losing five fingertips and more flesh off his legs to frostbite, though none of his strength of character.

He told the New Zealand Herald, “When you lose your legs when you’re 23… something like this is just a minor hiccup, just a bump in the journey, really.”

4. Stranded in the Andes

It’s a story so extraordinary it has spawned several books, a Hollywood film, an acclaimed documentary and an official website, and can be recognized with just one word: Alive.

When the plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes in October 1972, the story should have ended there, but it was only just beginning. Of the 45 people on board, 12 died in the crash or shortly afterward, another five passed away the next morning from injuries, another on the eighth day, then eight in a later avalanche.

The remaining 16 struggled through extreme cold and starvation before resorting to cannibalism of those who had perished.

When it became clear help wouldn’t come to them, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa hiked for days out of the mountains and eventually found help. The most recent, and arguably the most sensitive retelling of the 72-day saga is Gonzalo Arijón’s 2007 documentary, Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains.

5. Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Amputating your arm with a blunt knife is a task the average person would find virtually inconceivable. But on May 1, 2003, it was the only option left to Aron Ralston after an 800-pound boulder fell on his arm, pinning it to a canyon wall.

After five days, the little food and water he had was gone and it was unlikely anyone would find him in the remote canyon in Utah.

In his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, he describes how he managed to literally break free, first using the boulder to leverage his arm until the bones snapped and then sawing away at muscle and tendon with his pocket knife. He then had to rappel down a 65-foot wall. He was walking back to his car when hikers found him.

The 33-year-old continues to climb, including all of Colorado’s 55 peaks higher than 14,000 feet, and is also a motivational speaker.

6. Mountain Odyssey

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates were descending from the summit of the 20,813-foot-high Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes when disaster struck-twice. First, Simpson slipped and broke his leg. Then, while Yates was lowering him down, Simpson went over a cliff and was left dangling on the end of the rope.

Yates couldn’t see or hear Simpson and held on for an hour as he was pulled down the mountain.

Controversially, he cut the rope (which some say was against the mountaineering code, while others say it ultimately saved both men’s lives) and safely descended. Simpson dropped into a crevasse, and though severely injured, was able to abseil down to the bottom from the ice shelf he landed on. From here, he spent three days dragging himself across five miles of rough terrain, with no food or water and in great pain.

He crawled into base camp in the middle of the night and was reunited with Yates, who, after recovering from his own injuries, was planning to break camp the next morning. The harrowing tale of survival is told in detail in Simpson’s book, Touching the Void, and the documentary of the same name.

7. Struck Down in the Pacific

Sailing the South Pacific may seem like an idyllic pursuit, but when American Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her British boyfriend Richard Sharp were caught in a category four hurricane 19 days into what should have been a 30-day crossing, the dream turned into a nightmare.

It was 1983 and they were en route from Tahiti to San Diego to deliver the 44-foot sailboat Hazana. Battered by Hurricane Raymond’s 50-foot waves, Hazana capsized. Ashcraft, sheltering below decks, was knocked unconscious. When she woke 27 hours later, Sharp was gone, his safety line broken, and while the boat had righted itself, the mainmast had snapped.

In the May 2002 issue of National Geographic Adventure, Ashcraft described how she had to fight the desire to just give up, how she fixed a makeshift mast and sail, rationed her supplies and plotted a course for Hawaii, 1,500 miles away.

Forty days later she sailed into Hilo Harbor, still in shock but thankful to be alive. She continues to sail and in 2000 published an account of her ordeal in the book, Red Sky in Mourning.

Photo by daren_ck.

8. Three Months in the Outback

When a walking skeleton over six feet tall appeared in front of his jeep in April 2006, Mark Clifford, a farm manager on a remote property in Australia’s Northern Territory, must have thought he was seeing things. The skeleton was 35-year-old Ricky Megee, who had been lost in the outback for an incredible 10 weeks.

Apparently drugged and left for dead by a hitch-hiker he had picked up (though he also claimed his car had broken down), Megee survived by staying close to a dam and eating leeches, grasshoppers, and frogs.

While police and the public had doubts about the story, especially when it came to light that Megee had minor drug convictions, there’s no question he was lost in the outback, for whatever reason, and lucky to have survived.

Community Connection

For more unbelievable travel stories, check out 8 of the Greatest Non-Fiction Adventure Stories Ever Told, and 8 of the Greatest Fictional Adventure Stories Ever Told.

About The Author

Marie Cleland

Marie Cleland is a New Zealand journalist based in London who travels regularly and has recently gone freelance to make a living out of her passion for exploring the world. She has a degree in Egyptology.

  • tom

    It's really cool to see all of these in one place!

  • Steven Roll

    Love this list. I'd like to add:

    1. Adrift. About a man who was stranded at sea for a record amount of time after a storm hit a sailing race. He survives by catching dorados with his bare hands.

    2. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey. After ending his second term, Teddy Roosevelt goes on an exploratory adventure in the Amazon –and almost dies in the process.

    3. Into Thin Air.

    4. The Perfect Storm.

  • Reannon

    Thanks so much for this! I love a good adventure story and am always looking for book reccomendations. I agree with Steven. Into Thin Air should definitely be added to the list!

  • Nikolas Tjhin

    Oh wow. A M A Z I N G.

    Very very inspirational. Thanks for these. Shows you just how strong a human spirit can be when faced improbable odds.

  • Turner

    Definitely can't stop reading Between A Hard And A Hard Place. I know I probably would have just died of thirst.

  • Turner

    Sorry, Between A Rock And A Hard Place.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for this post. I had to write a paper on leadership for my Master's Degree based on Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. It was a great story and the epitome of leadership. Too bad we do not have great leaders today who embody Ernest Shackleton.

  • No-name

    I had to read Ernest Shackleton’s incredible voyage for English. We had to pick books of a list and I chose this one. I have to say it was the most incredible book I ever read. I was always on my feet waiting to see what happened. Shackleton is truly a hero. Probally if another man was leading the crew trying to survive they would not have made it. He had such great leadership. I agree with Rebecca “to bad we do not have great leaders today who embody Ernest Shackleton.

  • Bob

    Great and interesting survival stories

  • Stew

    read life of pi, its a great survival story

    • Orth Otic

      Nah! I reckon he faked his own death to escape from some sort of threat at home….

  • Sumitran Robert

    ’8 Incredible Survival Stories’ are incredibly encouraging and motivating. But nothing even comes anywhere close to the most amazing saga of survival in human history – Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.

    How Shackleton managed to bring back every single of his 27-member crew alive, still is a source of immense awe !

    Shackleton and his crew survived the extreme conditions on the Antarctic Ice shelf for 497 days (including 4 month of darkness). Very aptly, his vessel was called the ‘Endurance’ !! What an endurance it was indeed !!!

  • Freddric Smoothy

    OHHMYYYGOOODNEESSS. these stories were very touching, and it brought tears to my eyes.

  • Phi Phi

    Great stories!

  • http://MSN xXKnoobXx

    THX a lot! ive been looking for storys for my homework this helped a lot thx again

  • mary ann

    You can not leave off Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson as well as Adrift

  • Hemant

    Good story but if you don’t hv money than don’t live on strange places like these specified places

  • Tom

    Hahaa cant belive you read all this hahaha.
    Nah but im doing number 5 for my survival thingy

  • brad

    Shackleton first.
    Probably “In the Heart of the Sea” second.
    And “Skeletons on the Zahara” ain’t no joke.

  • Sandy Brisbane

    What is it about the Australian outback? Drugged and left to die? I wonder if it was the same guy who killed Peter Falconio?

  • Guy

    Another great story of survival happening today in Chile…

  • Tuqui

    what about her “Juliane Koepcke” her story is more incredible than others here.

  • mimi

    Unbelievable stories of courage, but for me above all is one story that hasn’t been mentioned -the 1972 plane crash in the Andes told in the book “Alive” and most recently written beautifully by the heroic survivor Nando Parrados in his 2006 book “Miracle in the Andes” …indisputably a tragic and triumphant tale.

  • fermas10

    Cool stories but told a bit too vaguely. Nice pics

  • Joe Greps

    The story of the forgotten slaves of Tromelin island makes these survival stories look like club med holidays.

  • Andréa

    Really moving stories!

  • Maria and Rebecca

    A girl called Ana Stein was founded in her bedroom dead by asfictious.The hole family was shocked with this news.
    A day later the family did de funeral of the girl and say they last words to her.Then they craved her at the backyard of the house.5 days later when a party was happening in the garden the guests strarted to hear screams in the grave and after dig a big hole they founded Ana alived!
    She was a one more case of fake death.She had a weak heartbeat and the doctor’s considered instantened death..
    How lucky !

  • Henry mutebe

    This is simply amazing. I think witg awe about the real moments.. The live hours.. About each minute in the horrible moments of these peoples lives and wonder the power and strength of the human spirit. Am compiling stories of this nature to encourage pple going thru crisis to find growth and courage to move on. Kindly forward me any more true survival stories u know about or the links. Thanks fo this wonderful work.

  • TheReviewer

    I once heard about a mountain climber who coughed up his larynx.

  • Pras

    Who has read an amazing book which write by Peter O’Connor? that is seems like related to this article, great adventure.. :)

  • Nanoha

    So touching/amazing story’s gave me shivers. Things they had to overcome I can not imagine now. They must feel so so alive now I envy a little.

  • Tommy Turiace

     The Tami Oldham Ashcroft story reminds me the 1970 misadventure of Julian Ritter and his crew mates aboard the 45-foot yawl, Galilee. Though the ship did not capsize, the three survived 87 days adrift in the Pacific after leaving Bora Bora for Hilo, Hawaii. They were without food for  40 days and were described as being “days from death” when they were rescued. You can read the story of the ordeal at the Wikipedia article on Julian Ritter:

  • Imgay

    wow that broke my heart
    im gay

    • Imgat2

      im gay to hehehehe

  • Igotnoballsnow

    i was is a shark attack
    i gat my balls bit off
    no family 4 me

    • BallsFinder

      what the fuck man, i think i found your balls when i was hunting sharks with my cock

  • MrGJG

    Agree about Into thin air, specifically Beck Weathers.

  • Cellinda_10

    All stories are great, but we like more the third one. We think that they didn’t learn the leasson! It was insane, they could had died, but they insited in doing that. If were us, we’d never do this again. Mark and Phil think that they make a joke with the life! Unless they lost their head, they won’t stop…
    Marcella and Maria Angélik

  • theenglishcultureguyshahaha

    all the histories are so good but the one that i most like it was the thirth one who says that the people were hitten by a blizzard so they need  to build a ice cave so that they pass 13 days there on the ice as long as he lost the circulation of his both legs so that he need to amputated but they still climb mountains like the everest

  • Haha

    so every bodys is gay now LOL

  • Sougay

    we agree that  those stories are very amazing and complicated for normal people and at the same time are very interesting. All people are luckly and brave to survive. Many people would got lost their minds in those situations.


    Incredible stories… they look like movie stories! we can´t belive these people still alive after that. Fortunately, they are still with us!



  • Fakhouurryy

    Michael Fakhoouurrrryyy


      Hey, Gerbil.


      Hey, do you know a Costa ? 

      His always copying everything Michael does.

  • Fakhoury

    Lets all be gay

    • Anthonylebo69

      mokers are gayy ahhaaha and he farts hahaha

  • Fakhoury

    Fakhoury i love you brother


    Looking for young boys 8 – 10 years with a fresh angus.

  • Mrmotox

    this is all bullshit

  • Misha10

    omg these r sad we r all just lucky he/she survived

  • Dennis Gill

    Incredible and inspiring stories.  I teach that 90 percent of surviving a life threatening situation is mindset.  I shall share these stories with my students.

  • Allucas1997

    you all are gay faggot ass bithes

  • pie

    yall gay

  • bob

    hunter travis amd ryan where all lost in the out back

  • bob

    bogir bogie hunter bogie bogie ryan got lost

  • bob

    hello travis

    • Billy

      hello bob

  • A Daniluk


    • Chuck Norris

      Bro sick pictures.

      • A Daniluk

        Thank you shea  Boyle you muff eating alagator. PENIS

        • Chuck Norris


          • A Daniluk

            Here is URANUS

          • Chuck Norris

            ’bout damn time. Now get back in that there kitchen

          • A Daniluk

            Cool story babe now make me a sandwich

  • Neto Awesome and Antonio Gay

    These stories are impressive, all these people fought for they survival, when the hope was lost they found a way to stay alive

  • toplectuplinnoratiofoidio

    OOOOOWWWWW!!! These are incredible stories!!! It`s so impressive when only God can save. Eat leeches and frogs, cut the own arm and survive for three days wuthout food or water, they are heros!!!

    • Igotnoballsnow

      Fuck you, fucking frog eaters, go find my fucking balls, a shark ate them

  • yumicreator

    Story #3 was stunning! It’s just sad that even if the two friends survived inside the ice cave, they had to amputate their legs. I was also shocked when I read that one of them lost his fingertips while climbing without his legs. One of my favorite stories is Aron’s one! The movie which was made with his story is incredible, and he was very brave to be capable of cutting his own arm off for freedom.

  • Bruna Brucs :)

    In my opinion the best survival story was n° 3! if I were Inglis id never climb again and the idea of being trapped in a cramped cave its really scary!Its amazing what a person can do to survive

  • luisa_h

    All the stories are incredible,but I thinkthe most moving and painful one is the
    one about the people that spend two weeks in a ice cave. If I had been on his place I would probably die. I like cold places, but I think that’s too much.

  • camilandmarina

    the most impressive story is number 3 (Two weeks in a ice cave) because the girl had to amputated her legs and fingertips and in my opinion it was a horrible story,I would never amputate my legs.

  • liege pbs

    all the stories are amazing but i think i would never do things like eat other people’s meat or frogs and leeches. #8 is the most impressive of them all. this is very sick indeed, i’d rather die

  • William Brand

    Situations like these would really make us a man!

  • Fakhoury


  • bob

    what michael thats rude

  • fred

    i know michael hes a pretty funny guy!!!!

  • Lol

    hahahahaha yeew

  • Bobmaerly

    fuck off cunt

From life and death in the pit at Puerto, to Galapagos sharks, to the frigid waters of...
Robin Esrock delves into the shady underworld of travel's most secret society.
A group of 7 year-old footballers with an endearing losing streak.
The goal with all my expeditions is to try to connect people with places.
The SURFER mag regular is now a legit Matadorian.
Champion freeskier Drew Tabke is off to a solid start to the season.
Once someone reaches a certain level, the separation between 'work' and 'life' disappears.
“At 22 you aren’t very introspective,” Roberts told the audience.
"If I had made the podium on that day, I would've made the US Ski Team."
You can learn quite a bit about a country based on the way it tucks its children into...