Even when faced with the likes of shipwreck, cannibalism, bear attack, or a six-and-a-half-mile free fall, the human will to survive never ceases to amaze. These five survival stories are the proof.
Vesna Vulović stayed alive after her plane exploded in mid-air. World War II commando Jan Baalsrud swam, with one boot, through Arctic water after the Germans sunk his boat. Hugh Glass survived a bear attack and even managed to kill the bear. Anna Bågenholm found an air pocket and kept breathing for 40 minutes after she became trapped in frozen water beneath an ice sheet. Owen Chase’s boating crew survived two whale attacks and an island engulfed in flames.
But in all of these cases, what happened next is the truly amazing part. These five astounding survival stories will have you believing in the indomitable, indefatigable will of the human spirit, or the astounding heights of dumb luck, or both…
Amazing Survival Stories: Owen Chase
Even when it’s calm, the sea is a harsh environment for most any human to survive in. From the blazing sun (if you’re lucky) to the frightening clouds and thunder (if you’re not) to the harsh waters, no person can vouch for the dangers of the sea more than Owen Chase. His singular survivor’s instinct was tested numerous times during his tenure as first mate on the whale ship Essex, which launched in 1819, and went on to inspire Moby Dick.
Nothing about Chase’s voyage went well. After surviving storms that nearly destroyed the vessel, he was barely able to escape from a small island after a crew mate set a fire as a prank, only for the island to quickly become engulfed in flames. Chase was then tested once more when his ship was destroyed by an attacking sperm whale. The team of 20 men piled into their emergency boats and stuffed them with as many supplies as they could while the Essex took on water—after which the ship sank, and the really bad things began to happen.
While stranded at sea, the crew suffered yet another whale attack before finally managing to reach land. However, the crew soon realized the island was barren. While three men decided to say, the others chose to take their chances at sea. Their supplies soon ran out, at which point the crew resorted to drinking their own urine and, eventually, cannibalism, slaughtering their companions for nourishment.
Even this horrible tactic didn’t sustain them for long. When the boat was finally discovered by two passing ships, only five of the 17 men remaining in the boat were still alive. It is said that they were found sucking marrow from the bones of their dead crew mates.