Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the side of the Andes mountains carrying 45 people on their way to a rugby match. This is well-known story because the survivors were forced to resort to the extreme measure of cannibalism. All told, 16 people lasted the 72-day ordeal.
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Hiking alone in the remote Utah mountains, Aron Ralston's right forearm was pinned under a boulder. After five days of trying to shake himself free, and drinking his own urine as sustenance, Ralston realized he had to amputate or die. He performed the harrowing feat with a small utility knife.
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Roy Sullivan, a US park ranger, was struck by lighting on seven different occasions and lived to tell about them all. The odds of an individual suffering seven lighting strikes is about one in sixteen-septillion (24 zeros.)
In 1823, frontiersmen Hugh Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear he managed to kill. Thinking he had died, and fearful of Indian attacks, Glass's companions left him. But Glass woke up, let maggots eat the flesh of his busted leg and spent the next six weeks crawling 200 miles to the nearest settlement.
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Anyone can claim they were struck by lightning, but William Hall can prove it. He was pumping gas in front of an upstate New York convenience store when a bolt of lightning knocked him out cold for five minutes. The whole scene was caught on a security camera.
The sole survivor of an airplane explosion at 33,333 feet (6.3 miles), Vesna Vulovic holds the world record for the highest fall without a parachute. While she was initially paralyzed from the waist down from her injuries, she regained her ability to walk in less than a year.
Joe Simpson and Simon Yates were the first to scale the west peak of the Siula Grande. Disaster struck on the way down, and Yates was forced to let a badly wounded Simpson drop 100 feet into an ice crevasse. Simpson survived the fall and spent three days crawling back to base camp.
Railroad switchman Truman Duncan fell off the front of a moving train car. He was swept underneath and cut in two. Despite losing both legs and a kidney, Duncan called the paramedics on his cell phone, survived a 45-minute wait, and then persevered through 23 surgeries.
French Trekkers Loic Pillois and Guilhem Nayral spent 72 days lost in the Amazon. They subsisted on spiders and bugs -- which they attracted with their own excrement. Nayral eventually fell ill after eating a tarantula, but luckily Pillois broke through to civilization the next day.
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Eddie Rickenbacker's bomber crashed into the Pacific during WW2. The entire crew jumped onto lifeboats, but food soon ran out. After a week, Rickenbacker somehow wrung the neck of a gull that landed on his head. They ate the bird, used the entrails for fishing, and seven of the eight men survived the 24-day ordeal.
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